Global Leadership

Our new 'eye to eye' filmed interview series with CEOs and chairmen continues to provide top-level insight into how leaders are responding to the challenges of today's environment. Since my last update on the films, we've had interviews with Paul Drechsler, Chairman and Chief Executive of Wates Group Ltd, Vanni Treves, Chairman for Korn/Ferry International, Martin Graham, Director of Equity Markets for London Stock Exchange and Graham Love, CEO, QinetiQ. Below are just a few of the issues that they've highlighted.

Two things remain consistent across all of our 'eye to eye' interviews: the belief that opportunities exist despite operating in a tough climate and the need to embrace globalisation by looking for ways to partner with and learn from organisations in emerging economies. In many ways, the current recession has created the chance to get back to business basics. Paul Drechsler describes how companies should be using the downturn to their advantage. He says, "Never has there been a better time to reengage employees, to get them to rethink what business their company is in, the role and purpose of that company and what difference it makes to the wider world."

Reduced access to funding and credit is forcing many organisations to relook at their cost base. Looking for higher quality, long-term sources of finance is clearly a positive move towards more stable, better regulated markets. As Martin Graham points out, "companies can raise equity finance if they come to markets which are well regulated, are very liquid and raising money through high quality markets, they will raise investor perception." As politicians continue to remind us, regulation must be international with governments, banks and business working together to minimise the chance of a global financial crisis on the same scale in the future.

The impact of globalisation has clearly had a big impact on the current recession. As Martin Graham says, "This is the first time we've seen a recession in a globalised world." But what it also highlights is how closely linked national markets have become and, as our interviewees agreed, the need for leaders to focus on building global capabilities if they want to remain competitive. Graham Love highlights the need to compete internationally: "The markets are increasingly global in the sense that supply chains are global...if we are going to compete in global markets, we have to have something really distinctive. Countries that invest long-term in research, development and technology, in other words building intellectual capacity, are those which are going to be more successful."

Above all, organisations in emerging economies have a determination to succeed which is often lacking in companies from established economies. Graham Love highlights the passion in emerging economies: "There are some very exciting things going on in countries like India, China and South Korea where there are people who are prepared to get up early and go to bed late for a vision that they really believe is worth fighting for." Paul Drechsler adds to this: "Companies from emerging economies are applying what we've all learnt over decades, but they're applying it incredibly rapidly." It is imperative that we understand and work with these organisations if we want to succeed, both now and when the upturn comes.

And despite the negativity exuding from our UK media, there are positives to pull out of the current climate. In many ways, we are in a stronger position than previous recessions to get back on track. As Vanni Treves says: "One enormous positive is the benefit of wonderful communications and the interlocking interests of government. Governments working at a very high level can take global action which has global effects in a way that wouldn't have been possible 30 years ago." With instant communication and instant travel, business should be able to get back on track faster and more effectively.         

Global Leadership Insights

Look out for future 'eye to eye' films including Alison Carnwath, Chairman for Land Securities, Rob Woodward, CEO for Scottish Television Group, Trevor Matthews, CEO for Friends Provident, Darryl Eales, CEO for Lloyds Development Capital and Donald Brydon, the soon to be Chairman of Royal Mail. 

Matthew Blagg, CEO, Criticaleye