Harvard professor fears leadership deficit

A respected professor of Harvard Business School in the United States has told Mortgage Business Australian companies potentially face a leadership crisis in years to come.

Professor Boris Groysberg, who specialises in talent management and leadership, has written several books on the subject including Chasing Stars: The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance. He was guest speaker at last week’s training sessions held by Loan Market in Sydney.

Professor Groysberg said that for anyone working in the financial services industry, more attention should be focused on retaining and upskilling the right employees, not just attracting them.

“In professional service firms … it's mostly all about people and culture. If you don't engage [employees], if you're not finding the right ways to connect to them, they will be gone,” he said.

“I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how you become a star: if great journalists are born or they're actually made. Are great analysts born or actually made? The research that we have done shows that it's a partnership. Of course you have to have something extra, but who you work for is really, really important.”

Professor Groysberg compared operating a business to leading a sporting team, saying that hiring someone else’s star player doesn’t automatically mean success for you if there is a culture clash.

“Most likely you selected the right person, you just didn't integrate that person well, especially when you deal with experienced hires.”

According to Professor Groysberg, “in Australian markets, people basically get developed as a specialist. In not many cases do you actually develop people who are general managers. Job rotations have been in decline in Australia, so one of the challenges – not right now, but in 2025, 2030, 2040 – is a leadership challenge.

“And to my mind it would be a bigger challenge than technology: where will the next leaders of companies come from?”

Loan Market chairman Sam White was enthusiastic about the reception of the professor’s presentation.

“One of the biggest things for us has been working across business boundaries and looking at boundary-less behaviour,” Mr White said.

“One of the challenges we have is operating businesses within silos, so [we're looking at] how we get rid of those silos and create boundary-less opportunities everywhere.

“[Professor Groysberg’s presentation] was a really huge opportunity, an eye-opener around what we could do and what was possible.” 

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Adam Zuchetti

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