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Executive Readiness in China and India: How do Leaders Stack Up?

Excerpted from India vs. China: How Leaders Measure Up in Behaviors, Personality and Business Context.

By Rich Wellins, Ph.D.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D.

Both countries have populations of over a billion people. Both economies are poised for growth two to three times the rate of the United States, and up to five times faster than Europe. Neither country will rest on its past successes. Both are striving to move their products and services up the innovation value chain and both will realize gains, not only in export markets, but in serving the rising needs in their own domestic markets. Each will continue to find that their success will depend on the quantity and quality of talent available, especially at leadership levels.

Of course, we are talking about India and China. In this fourth installment of our Leadership Insights series, we will explore which country currently has a better leadership pipeline and how their leaders differ.

The Survey Says

In DDI’s recent Global Leadership Forecast we sampled HR executives and line leaders from over 2,000 companies. We discovered that compared to China, leaders in India are 100% more likely to report they have a sufficient leadership pipeline to meet their future business challenges. And, India leaders rate themselves as far more effective in just about every major leadership skill area than their Chinese counterparts. (Self-reporting survey data, while useful, is also subject to biases.) We have found that populations in countries like India, Mexico and the Philippines, survey participants may inflate reality (they are more optimistic) while other country populations (like Japan and China) may deflate reality (they may be less likely to “publicly” assign a high rating to certain types of survey questions).

On the other hand, Assessment Center data, which is the basis for this piece, is far more reliable and valid. It is based on observations of real behavior exhibited in the same set of assessment center simulations used across both countries. And, assessment center outcomes have been shown to predict leadership performance in countless studies.

What Will Leaders in China and India Do?

In part 1 of our Leadership Insights series, we discussed the relationship between competency ratings in an assessment center and a leader’s ability to exhibit the same level of performance on the job.

The table below lists the most commonly measured competencies for leaders in China and India. The rating represents the percent of assessed leaders who have a development need in a particular competency (the higher the rating, the higher the need for development).

 Competency: Performance for China and India

The assessment data paints a bit of a different picture than the Global Leadership Forecast survey data with some interesting contrasts between the two populations. Some high-level conclusions:

  • In most of the competencies, one-third or more of the assessed leaders have development needs. Regardless of country, there is ample room for significant improvements.
  • In a majority of the sixteen competencies, the sample of all global leaders combined outperforms leaders in either China or India.
  • India’s leaders have significantly more development needs than do their Chinese counterparts.
  • Indian leaders tend to think more strategically, and entrepreneurship, which is strong, is the foundation of success of many Indian corporations. They are also likely to look at the bigger picture in determining the talent required to grow in the future. On the other hand, competencies in which Indian leaders do not perform as well as their Chinese counterparts (10 percentage points or more) include: coaching, business acumen, driving execution, passion for results, customer focus, leading teams, and global acumen.
  • In contrast, Chinese leaders tend to be good at bringing people together to execute an established strategy and meet the needs of their customers. They have an inordinately strong drive for results. On the other hand, they are less likely than their Indian counterparts to establish strategic direction, be entrepreneurial, build organizational talent, and sell the vision.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D. is a senior vice president at DDI.

Click here to read the full Leadership Insights Series.

Posted: 30 May, 2013,

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