Growing and Developing Next Generation Leaders

Today’s leaders play a critical role in helping to shape the leaders of tomorrow. In a new report, Signium’s Matthew Dallisson recently looked into what attributes are needed in next generation leaders, and how to develop them.

November 21, 2022 – Today’s members of the C-suite have a special responsibility to help mold the leaders of the future. In a new report, Signium’s Matthew Dallisson looked into what attributes are needed in next generation leaders, and how to develop them.

“Clients engage Signium to enhance the NextGen leadership in their own organizations by identifying a pipeline of upcoming external candidates who embody vision, resilience, innovation, and agility, to cultivate teams that will ensure continuity of winning business practice, and the implementation of creative systems that will meet novel and unexpected demands,” said Mr. Dallisson. “We asked Signium clients Anja Zapka-Volkmann, director human resources continental Europe and legal at ARYZTA in Germany, and Sean Walsh, CEO of Kaap Agri in South Africa, to share their thoughts on what personal NextGen characteristics they see as critical, and how to develop those earlier in their career into positions of leadership.”

When asked to name the top three attributes of a next generation leader, Ms. Zapka-Volkmann said, “Professional communication skills to address messages in a polite and inspiring manner, high flexibility in leadership styles, and resilience and inspirational attitude. Younger business people seem to find the communications style of their older colleagues somewhat brash.”

Mr. Walsh pointed out that a leader must first determine whether their candidate is driven by a “customer first” work ethic, particularly if they are in the service industry. “Bearing in mind that leaders influence people, I’d say the key attributes for the next generation of leaders are talent-with-attitude, agility, and resilience,” he said. “Talent without attitude means nothing. Without a customer-centric outlook, all the qualifications in the world won’t keep you in business.”

Ms. Zapka-Volkmann added that innovation requires continuous reflection from both current and future leaders. “Ongoing contemplation about what we do and how we do it is essential,” she said. “Any standstill means a setback, and deliberation is needed to maintain innovation.”

What Empowerment Means to Business and Employees

While clients of Signium understand empowerment is vital for executives and their employees, Mr. Walsh says that the term itself must be defined by region. “In South Africa, for example, the word ‘empowerment’ brings to mind diversity and inclusion, where it’s really about the development of all employers to be leaders,” he said.

Ms. Zapka-Volkmann agrees. “We invest significantly in leadership skills and impart our values and what behaviors we expect from young people,” she said. “One of the core competencies is not only to be aligned with these and be transparent, but also to be decisive and strong in execution.”

Matthew Dallisson joined Signium in the U.K., where he is a partner, in 2011. He is global head of Signium’s consumer practice, a member of Signium’s life sciences, industrial, and technology practices. Mr. Dallisson has recruited across a variety of regions internationally and across a range of ownership structures including quoted, private, and venture/private capital backed organizations. These span multi-national companies to challenger brands, for which he has a particular passion. Mr. Dallisson is also has a particular interest in achieving diversity in leadership, being an early advocate of promoting diversity on shortlists without compromising on caliber. 

Both clients assert that agility is vital, but so is resilience in NextGen. “It is more important than ever after COVID-19, where our environment and parameters changed rapidly,” said Ms. Zapka-Volkmann. “It determines how we will continue doing business.”

Mr. Walsh also said that the companies that lacked the agility and resilience to work around potentially stifling rules during the pandemic are now out of business.

What can NextGen Leadership not do without?

“All of the above plus a mentor,” said Mr. Walsh. “Not only is it vital to learn how the job is done in order to improve upon it, but having a mentor that you can work with and emulate gives you a head-start on young want-to-be executives who learned by book and not solid human experience.”

“The business leaders of the future must learn to solve problems in parallel in a time-poor world,” said Ms. Zapka-Volkmann. “This can only be managed as long as individuals and teams are resilient and stay focused. Having a mentor often provides the experience a young executive can build on.”

The current generation of leaders indeed appears to be looking to pass on its skills to the next generation and ensure business continuity. While we keep reading about the Great Resignation and “quiet quitting,” there are huge opportunities for both experienced executives and their less experienced but energetic and optimistic colleagues.

“When reflecting on whether candidates are focusing more attention on the values and ethics of companies they choose – or refuse – to work for, two topics come up with clients of Signium and other key thought leaders time and again,” Mr. Dallisson said. “The first is, if you are a talented young professional, your path will be accelerated by seeking out diverse viewpoints and robust mentorship. The second is one Warren Buffet believes is probably more important than talent: Practice your communication skills, both spoken and written. They will help you reach places knowledge alone will not.”

Signium has 45 offices in 30 countries serving clients in the Americas, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific regions. The firm delivers talent acquisition and management solutions for global companies across industry sectors, including consumer goods, financial services, technology, industrial, life sciences, and professional services.

Related: How to Prepare for Next Generation Board Talent

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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