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Majority of corporate executives concerned that current leaders are ill prepared to deal with impending convergence

More than two-thirds of corporate executives see great danger in leadership being overwhelmed by the complex challenges brought about by the current trend in which companies are experiencing convergence, according to a new study released by Egon Zehnder International. Convergence involves cross-industry collaboration, changing business models and companies making structural transformations. In fact, three out of four executives report seeing convergence in their industry. The main drivers behind this trend are changes in customer expectations and technological innovation.

Convergence is impacting a whole spectrum of industries – from the advent of the electric car in the automotive sector to personalized medicine in the healthcare industry – and technology and telecommunications innovation is often at the forefront of these changes. And, as a hub technology, digital hardware and software is becoming all-pervading in traditional branches of industry such as energy, mechanical engineering and medical technology.

One of the greatest challenges associated with convergence, however, is having people with the right skill sets to manage the transformation. According to top executives, nearly two-thirds of companies believe they do not have sufficient leadership potential to deal with the changes driven by convergence. “In the U.S., three quarters of executives are fearful of leaders being overwhelmed by the increase in complexity brought about by convergence,” said Mike Portland, co-leader of Leadership Strategy Services, Egon Zehnder International.

As a result, an intensified war for talent is increasingly taking place across industry – and geographic – borders. The study, conducted in winter 2010, queried 515 top executives from multinational corporations, as well as small and medium-sized businesses in countries across the globe, including: Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S. “Convergence is resulting in corporations developing ultra demanding leadership profiles for executives who can manage change and looking globally for the leaders that fit this profile,” said Damien O’Brien, CEO, Egon Zehnder International.

The pressure on corporate executives has spiked substantially and leaders are required to possess skills and competencies that were once thought of as impossible to find in one individual. For example, leaders today are increasingly required to have a range of skills and competencies, from being vigorous and persistent to being culturally sensitive.

Ambitious skill sets. Seventy-eight percent of top executives questioned said teamwork at the management level has become significantly more important. This was the highest in India, with 92 percent of executives indicating teams are increasingly critical to managing the challenges of convergence. In contrast, only 57 percent of German executives believe teamwork is becoming more important. In addition, corporate executives across the globe cited being “vigorous and persistent” and generalist knowledge and skills as the competencies most in demand now (1.6 on scale of 1 to 4, from highly relevant to unimportant). The “necessary bite” ranked the highest of the skills in France (2.3) and the lowest in Italy (1.0).

Resource challenges. Sixty-three percent of corporations believe they lack sufficient personnel resources to implement the changes made necessary by convergence. This number was the highest in France (86 percent) and the lowest in Germany (43 percent).In the Netherlands, nearly 80 percent (78 percent) of executives see danger of leaders being overwhelmed by the increase in complexity brought about by convergence. France ranked the lowest at 54 percent.

Collaboration. As a result of diminished boundaries between industries, 45 percent of global companies indicate they now offer products/services in partnership with other companies (46 percent in the U.S.)

Source: Egon Zehnder International; www.egonzehnder.com.