Articles & Insights

Although gauging cultural fit should be a component of any hiring effort, from low-level onboarding to executive recruiting, culture is unique to every organization.

In executive recruiting, culture is key

November 9, 2017 -

When a candidate who looks perfect on paper doesn’t end up working out, executives are often left scratching their heads, especially when they didn’t enlist the help of executive search and recruitment professionals during their search. If someone doesn’t work out despite having a strong background, relevant experience and a good measure of successes and failures under his or her belt, it can be hard to determine what went wrong, but firms that hire based on those qualities alone are overlooking a major piece of the hiring puzzle – cultural fit.



Are your execs on the money?

October 3, 2017 - Nick Scarlett,

How technology-savvy and customer-centric leaders are creating new revenue streams

The term “fin-tech executive” has been coined to describe the type of leader required to drive customer-focused change in financial institutions from banks and insurance companies, to wealth managers. But the answer is not necessarily to recruit technocrats into top roles, or rush to create a panoply of new products from online services to mobile apps. Nor is it a strategy to try and cross-sell as many products and services to clients in the hope of retaining them. < !–more–>

As industry observer and billion-dollar hedge fund Co-Chief Investment Officer Christopher Joye told us: “Many clients are currently immobile, not loyal, and will have no compunction departing… once low-cost switching is enabled by online product processing, real-time payments between banks and government-mandated data sharing.”

Joye, who manages Coolabah Capital Investments in Australia and writes for The Australian Financial Review, says the chief executives he interviews at financial institutions are “scared witless” that they are going to be disintermediated. “They have made it clear in conversations with me that they think massive change is coming.”

This very much aligns with the sentiment of discussions by Caldwell Partners with Australian and New Zealand chief executives. At Caldwell, we are providing client solutions by securing leaders who have the courage to abandon traditional business models, create cultures of agility as customers move to new channels, and prepare for products that don’t exist today, in ways that don’t exist, and in a world where people don’t yet know what they want.

Change favors the bold, but not the foolhardy, and the leaders we recruit know what will work, what may be a niche product, and what to spend on an idea with broader popular appeal.

For example, Barclays in the United Kingdom are exploring cards for teenagers that limit or reject purchases on games, gambling or adult websites, but is analysing data on adult spending habits in order to offer more targeted goods and services in that more lucrative market.

The real disruptor

Is technology the real disruptor? The following has been doing the rounds on social media:

  • Netflix did not kill Blockbuster video rentals. Didn’t high late fees play a part?
  • Uber did not kill the taxi business. Limited taxi access and fare control supported the opportunity for change?
  • Apple did not kill the music industry. Being forced to buy full-length albums didn’t help?
  • Airbnb did not kill the hotel industry. Didn’t limited availability and pricing options contribute to this?
  • Amazon did not kill other retailers. Bad customer service and experience created the need for an alternative?

The global financial crisis disrupted many of the disruptors when the open markets that encouraged securitizers and off-balance sheet funders dried up. As the pendulum swung back to taxpayer-funded banks, innovation slowed. Most home loan markets do not yet have electronic conveyancing, and for numerous managed funds, customers still need to fill out a paper application in order to invest and likewise for mortgage applications.

Most of the cost of processing a mortgage is embedded in manual loops of work and rework, and digitizing these processes will be a multi-year project, according to McKinsey’s report, Cutting Through the Noise Around Financial Technology, published in 2016.

“Digitising a mortgage application would involve creating and manipulating data fields, such as borrower income and liabilities, in a largely automated manner in the cloud . . . and would require the integration of multiple legacy systems and potential re-platforming to enable truly digitised processes. The sooner banks attack these opportunities, the more prepared they will be to compete with fin-tech attackers that have a structurally lower cost base.”

Design thinking consultant Jon Kolko, who specializes in humanizing technology, has also found in working with financial institutions that product processes are arcane and reflect outdated ways of thinking. “The product requirements document (PRD), for example — a leftover artefact of the 1980s — still seems to find its way into product development meetings, and those same meetings seem to spin endlessly around arguments about features, alignment, and time-to-market,” he says in Well Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love (Harvard Business Review Press).

“It may seem as though we’ve collectively mastered the technology game, and that we just generally understand how to produce drop-dead products that tame the chaos of technological advancement. But those of us who build products and services — those who are behind the facade of simplicity in the murky, muddy trenches of corporations, consultancies and start-ups — are reminded of that complexity and confusion every day . . . As the market demands products that are simple to understand, robust in their technical capabilities, and most importantly, delightful to engage with, our legacy processes obviously do not deliver.”

What the new financial services executive looks like

Technology itself may look like the solution — disrupt yourself before someone else does, and use data analytics to understand and predict customer behaviour. The default thinking here is to hire a super tech-savvy leader or to staff up rapidly with digital experts, with an experienced and innovative banking leader at the helm.

It sounds simple, but the fusion of talent and technology in the financial services space calls for a deep understanding of the human capital market globally and locally, which Caldwell Partners offers. Deciding who to entrust with transforming a large, profitable business into a lithe, competitive 21st century player is in itself one of the riskiest decisions a financial services firm’s board can make. And for the chief executive, building a team carries similar threats, and opportunities. The leader of today requires a particularly high aptitude and intellect — it’s no longer just business as usual.

Team-building, in terms of “getting the right people on the bus and then figuring out where to drive it,” to quote Jim Collins in Good to Great, is one of the most important “first 100 days” steps for an incoming leader. It takes a good understanding of the new qualities needed in those who will reinvent the corporation. The key here is to assess for flexibility as well as acumen.

The “personality” of teams in the financial services sector world are becoming more complex and collaborative, with titles such as chief analytics officer, chief data scientist, chief customer experience officer, and chief design officer, among others — all ideally interacting more closely with each other than ever before.

“The fusion of talent and technology in the financial services space calls for a deep understanding of the human capital market globally and locally, which Caldwell Partners offers.”

Analytics will help drive change by crawling through the data of millions of customers, looking at their risk factors and patterns of product usage to anticipate their next moves. Customer empathy will help execute at the design of both product and “customer experience” end points.
The key now is execution, and the leader’s ability to know when even a cherished idea has passed its use-by date, or has been overtaken by yet another twist or turn of the market. The hard choice may then be to abandon the strategy and move on to the next opportunity.

Execution by design

Operational processes are being streamlined with the help of industrial design gurus such as Kolko. In a recent interview, Kolko told us that his consultations with financial services institutions often start with the basics: “The quality of interaction with the customer is so extraordinarily poor that before they even think about product innovation, they need to not only understand the goals that customers have, but step back and look at how the organization itself works. You can see from the appearance of a mobile app, or the homepage of a website, that people are fighting internally for prime real estate.”

Should financial services organizations strive to provide multiple products across different segments, connecting savings and credit accounts, investment accounts, and insurance?

Kolko says that such an arrangement does indeed help to reduce customer confusion, but that many organizations still don’t sufficiently understand the emotions that swirl around money, and the products packaged around people’s lives.

“There’s a level of confusion when you have multiple accounts, which creates anxiety around, ‘Where is my money, and how much do I have?’ Splitting these things up across many providers causes anxiety, and so we see an opportunity to connect these things up. But the experience of, for example, a life insurance payout on the death of a loved one, or simply trying to track their finances, needs to be designed for the emotional response and the anxieties involved.

He adds that “making the products look like one cohesive brand rather than a whole bunch of different business units cobbled together would be a good start.”

At this contradictory time in history, characterized by slow growth meeting fast disruption, execution will separate the winners from the losers. Execution – at its heart – is a people issue, and for leaders at all levels, the over-arching key to success is an ability to achieve buy-in for the idea that people (clients and customers) matter. It’s the killer app in the technology world, and the new competitive advantage for the finance industry

About the author
Nick Scarlett
+64 9 306 6633

Nick Scarlett brings international leadership experience, insights, behaviours and connectivity that he has attained through executive roles at Fortune 500 companies: a career spanning three global organizations – Zurich International, American International Group (AIG) and AXA. As a Partner, Nick is an active member of the financial services, private equity and venture capital practices.

Nick has a broad network of contacts throughout Asia Pacific. He has served on the Financial Services Council of New Zealand (formerly the Investment Savings & Insurance Association); Advicefirst Board; the Quality Advice Network Advisory Board and the Committee for Collective Investment Schemes to the Hong Kong Securities & Futures Commission.

In a world where the behavior (or misbehavior) of an employee, a product quality spill, an offhand comment by an officer, or a tweet by POTUS can drag a company to new lows in minutes, it is more important than ever to invest in the communications function and building stakeholder capital overall.

Stakeholder Engagement

July 11, 2017 - Kathy Ventura,

A highly-respected leader of the corporate affairs function of a Fortune 10 company recently told us that his best advice for a rising talent in the field is to aspire to be a business leader rather than a communications strategist.

Just as the chief marketing officer understands the mind and emotions of the “end user,” the chief communications officer (CCO) must understand the minds of the company’s broad stakeholder groups so that she or he can help build the company’s reputation and create shareholder value. On the other side of the cliff, they need to be able to protect it when the very reputation they’ve advanced, or shareholder value they’ve created, is threatened.

The coming storm

It’s a job that’s talked about a lot these days, as companies and their boards increasingly come to understand that no company can speak in terms of if when referring to existential threats. As one after the other has found, weathering that storm when it comes is less about crisis plans and pre-baked communications responses than it is about inherently business-oriented professionals understanding the needs, emotions and touchpoints of their stakeholders, and being in the position at the company to influence how they are addressed.

Sometimes defined as “stakeholder capital,” the trust that exists among stakeholders has a direct impact on a company’s ability to fully – and speedily – recover from a crisis or create value by expanding its offerings and entering new markets. Complex decisions require a broad perspective however, and a deep understanding of business operations, markets and financials enables the CCO to project the reaction to decisions among those with a vested interest in company behavior, and credibly inform the C-suite accordingly. With virtually all of our clients, we see the tangible evidence of the immense value of business acumen in the CCO.

More than ever before, the current business, social and political environment also requires that CEOs become students of the communications function and invest in building stakeholder capital. Today, the behavior (or misbehavior) of an employee, a product quality spill, an offhand comment by an officer, or a tweet by POTUS can drag a company to new lows in minutes. It’s something to truly grasp and internalize.

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40 under 40

Caldwell Partners and MNP LLP Announce the Return of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40®

February 2, 2017 -

TORONTO –  February 2, 2017 – Caldwell Partners International Inc. (TSX: CWL) and Presenting Partner MNP LLP today announced that the re-imagined and highly anticipated Canada’s Top 40 Under 40® Award Program has relaunched. Visit the website for nomination details and timelines. (more…)

In this ever-evolving landscape of innovation and change, it is critical that leaders are able to stay agile and responsive.

Leading through times of change and disruption

November 4, 2016 -

In today’s highly technological environment, the companies with the biggest competitive advantages are the ones constantly evolving. As our world continues to move toward a digitally dominated landscape, it is becoming increasingly important for leaders to effectively navigate their teams through times of change. Unfortunately, not enough organizations are adequately prepared to do this. < !–more–>

Forbes recently revealed that research published by Lee Hecht Harrison found that the majority of U.K. businesses anticipate workforce changes to continue to unfold, yet over 25 percent feel senior teams don’t possess the skills or experience needed to successfully deal with change management. Part of the issue is that the majority of companies have failed to adequately prepare leaders in this area. This is concerning for businesses because, as the source also indicated, not being able to effectively manage change can cause employee disengagement and turnover.

Although the cited study was focused on U.K.-based organizations, one of the biggest factors fueling workforce changes in that region is one that affects businesses everywhere: technology. As artificial intelligence, robotic processes and automated technology continue to evolve, our machines are becoming more sophisticated and intelligent, which is changing the way we work – and the kind of leadership we look for.

“Technology is disrupting the way we work – and the type of leadership we look for.”

Not just about IT
According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum, 35 percent of the skills currently important in the workforce won’t be five years from now. Leadership in this age of technology isn’t about having technical skills and experience so much as it is about having a forward-thinking mindset – an ability to prepare for change and readiness to take risks.

To be a great leader in the age of technology, you don’t necessarily need to know how to write code or be well-versed in programming languages. What is needed, though, is a sound understanding of the role technology has – both in the world as a whole and in the business – as well as how to identify, use and apply the innovations in the most beneficial and valuable way possible.

As new technologies are developed, introduced and worked into business models, it is creating a new paradigm of leadership and management. In an article for Information Age, Richard Pillar recently explored this concept, pointing out that it is not exactly easy for leaders to reshift their beliefs and behaviors during times of disruption. Therefore, those who are able to comfortably let go of the deeply rooted patterns and mindsets, and both willing and able to embrace new ones at a moment’s notice, will be more effective.

Risk taking
It is important that leaders are not fearful of the technologies and changes before them or be resistant to leaning into new territories. In this world that is constantly evolving,they must be able to embrace opportunities that these innovations present, rather than avoid taking risks with them and be held back by the threats they present.

It is also helpful if leaders are able to encourage others to do the same. For example, instead of looking down on someone for failing at something new, it might be better to look at their intention and reward them for taking risks. Employees shouldn’t feel too scared to try new things because that is what is going to get businesses ahead.

Leaders need to be OK making a choice when they don't know the outcome.Leaders need to be OK making a choice when they don’t know the outcome.

Writing for World Economic Forum, Linda A. Hill revealed that creativity will be one of the top three skills to have in the future workforce. It is this type of quality that our machines, though capable of almost everything we are, still lack. Emotional intelligence is also important. In times of change and disruption, it is critical to have someone capable of thinking outside the box, someone who is able to connect the dots in a way most people wouldn’t even notice.

“Leading innovation is not about getting people to follow you into the future, it is about getting people to co-create with you,” Hill explained.

Strong communication skills will always be an important quality for leaders. During times of uncertainty especially, being able to keep everyone on the same page and steer them where they need to go goes a long way. Furthermore, you want teams to be comfortable asking questions, raising concerns and being open and honest about situations, so the right progress can be made.

Being an effective communicator also requires strong listening skills; great leaders are capable of putting their own biases, thoughts and opinions aside and fully considering the perspective of someone else. They know they are not always right and are willing to put their egos aside to fuel progression.

Finding – and developing – leaders who are capable of seamlessly navigating through times of disruption can be the difference between an unexpected shift in the workplace causing progress or chaos.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Making the right moves: What new CEOs need to know

Making the right moves: What new CEOs need to know

October 12, 2016 -

One of the difficult aspects of measuring new C-level executive performance and how that correlates to organizational success is that too often the impact of the moves made by the executives is not realized until years down the road. (more…)

The majority of leadership advice circulating today is not backed by legitimate research.

The trouble with leadership literature today

October 5, 2016 -

Leadership is a subject that sparks considerable debate: How can leaders improve their current tactics? What makes a good leader? Is skill or personality more important? The demand for leadership studies then becomes an understandable request. Pair this natural curiosity with the fact that employee engagement globally is low, turnover rates are high and leadership insights become a frenzied phenomenon.

However, according to an article written by Stanford University Business School Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer in the McKinsey Quarterly, the leadership jargon that is so often sought out today is extremely disconnected from the realities of organizational management. This is a harsh reality considering that the U.S. alone spends anywhere from $14 billion to $50 billion annually on leadership research.

What exactly is wrong about the leadership material circulating today? Let’s take a look:

“A moral framework for leadership simplifies a complex position.”

A morality tale: One of the biggest problems with widespread leadership thinking is that it has become a sort of morality tale, explained McKinsey. It is a pervasive disconnect that comes down to people’s tendency to focus on what they believe should be true versus what actually is. Much of the advice that stems from leading publications on leadership promotes ideas of authenticity, trust and community – these recommendations represent the side in favor of whimsical thinking. However, there are studies that have found evidence supporting narcissism, self-promotion and lying as a means to successful leadership. People want to believe that the righteous path is the right one but leadership isn’t a tale of morality, it’s a discipline filled with intricacies. Sure, authenticity is helpful, but sometimes there is a need for deceit.

An oversimplification: In the same vein, this moral framework simplifies a very complex position. Leaders are faced with intricate dilemmas and roadblocks on a day-to-day basis. Put simply: sometimes it takes a few bad actions to produce a good result. Great leaders are first and foremost pragmatists. Historical figures like Nelson Mandela, JFK and Abraham Lincoln are all prime examples – they were willing to do whatever it took to achieve their ultimate visions, explains Pfeffer. Attempting to put leadership skills or decisions into boxes of “good” or “bad” does everyone a major disservice. Humans, by nature, are complex creatures and their decisions are equally intricate. While inherent traits dictate actions, scenarios and environment play a key role in our choices as well. A leader can exemplify “good” behavior while making “bad” decisions to reach a strategic goal. This does not make the leader good or bad, it simply makes them a savvy decision maker.

The Kumbaya effect: The good and bad boxing of leadership actions is backed by the increasing prevalence of the ‘Kumbaya’ effect. Professionals today are constantly bombarded with feel-good aphorisms over sound research and insights, explained the Harvard Business Review. The Kumbaya school of thought perpetuates the notion that positivity and hard work are the key to career advancement and while these tools are useful, these insights neglect the gritty reality of office politics. Organizations at their core are hierarchies – nothing more, nothing less. Research supports the notion that the path to power is paved with uncomfortable realities. Promotions can come from kissing up, appearance can be more important than content, competency can be linked to confidence, etc., reported HBR. Professionals today are thirsting for advice that is more realistic and much more complex. There is a surprising lack of evidence backing any of the feel-good aphorisms that are cited so frequently, hence why the Kumbaya effect needs to be reevaluated.

“Humans, by nature, are complex creatures.”

The fact of the matter is the business world is going through a flurry of rapid changes. Leaders today should not look to clichéd jargon to guide their next steps, but, rather, must think strategically and creatively to solve the unique problems that face their industry. Innovation, strategy, execution, vision – these are constant areas for improvement for leaders everywhere. Great leadership is not about following the latest trends or feel-good messages, but building upon these core foundations to create impressive new leadership styles and compound organizational success.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

What happens to expatriate executives after their overseas assignments draw to a close and they return home?

Why companies with expat executives shouldn’t overlook the repatriation stage

September 29, 2016 -

Executives who relocate to other countries face a number of challenges while on foreign soil. A 2013 study by Cigna Global Health revealed that these issues run the gamut from family matters to securing quality health care and benefits – but what happens after professionals’ overseas assignments draw to a close and they return home?

“Executives and their families often struggle to re-assimilate.”

Writing for Human Resource Executive Online, contributor Michael Thompson observed that a lot of companies tend to view repatriation “almost as an afterthought, thanks to a tacit assumption that ‘coming home’ is the easy part of a posting abroad.” However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, executives and their families often struggle to re-assimilate into their old lives, from both personal and professional standpoints. One study published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management by researchers Margaret Linehan and Hugh Scullion even went as far as to suggest that repatriation may ultimately be even more stressful than expatriation.

Personal issues
When people return to their home countries after an extended period of living elsewhere, they frequently expect everything to be as they left it, even though they know rationally that time doesn’t stand still and thus, things must have changed. It’s reasonable to posit that the psychological toll of going back somewhere that’s supposed to be familiar and encountering strange elements would be more damaging than trying to get accustomed to a foreign culture that’s expected to be different. This is especially the case if the corporate support offered as part of expatriation (assistance with schools, medical preparedness, settling in, etc.) isn’t available upon repatriation.

Of course, executives and their families shouldn’t forget that in addition to their countries of origin changing during their absence, they themselves have probably changed too, absorbing aspects of their home-away-from-home cultures that may be at odds with the cultures they left. Chances are they’re not even aware of how much they internalized while abroad until they begin the process of repatriation.

“In China, when you’re listening to people, you make a kind of grunting sound, which is how you convey, ‘Yes, I get it,'” explained Mark Doll, who lived in China for 30 months while on assignment for his employer, as quoted by Human Resource Executive Online. “But my wife warned me, ‘You’ve got to stop saying “ugh” all the time,’ because she was afraid people back in the States would think that I was being rude.”

The culture clash can also affect members of executives’ families. Thompson cited the example of an executive whose daughter’s teacher, unaware that her family had been living in a remote part of the globe until repatriating to the United States, became concerned after the girl didn’t know what ZIP codes were.

Cultures vary across the globe, which can make re-integration a tricky process for repatriated executives and their families. Cultures vary across the globe, which can make re-integration a tricky process for repatriated executives and their families.

Professional challenges
As well as getting used to the country they left months or even years ago, executives also need to get back up to speed with what’s going on back at the office. Even though they worked for the same company while they were away, chances are good that at least some of the processes and policies they’re returning to weren’t upheld in the country where they were on assignment. Staffing changes might also have occurred in their absence, so they may find themselves working alongside – and even reporting to – unfamiliar faces. Additionally, it’s unlikely their positions will be exactly the same as the ones they held abroad, so they need to get used to a new role on top of everything else.

Needless to say, all of these factors can combine to make for a bumpy re-integration period. According to the Linehan and Scullion study, female executives have a particularly tough time adjusting to life back home “because of their pioneering roles.”

“Some organizations simply don’t have repatriation programs in place.”

How can companies help?
Enterprises eager to give their executives stationed in foreign countries every chance to succeed often bend over backwards to ensure these professionals have what they need to transition as smoothly as possible. However, according to the Cigna Global Health study, the same can’t be said during the post-assignment phase, especially among smaller companies or those that have few expat employees. In fact, the scores assigned to employers’ post-assignment efforts by expat executives surveyed as part of Cigna’s research were more than four-tenths lower than those given for the pre- and mid-assignment stages. Some organizations simply didn’t have repatriation programs in place, while others did but failed to adequately publicize this fact to the employees who could have benefited from them.

Moreover, 59 percent of expat employees said they were unsure whether their employers tracked how they fared after they returned home – which, as the study’s authors pointed out, could be perceived as lack of interest. With their resumes bolstered by their work abroad, executives may consider leaving to work at other companies that will place a greater value on their expertise.

“When I was repatriated, I came back to a new boss and HR didn’t have procedures in place to re-integrate me,” recounted marketing analytics executive Bret Leece, as quoted by Human Resource Executive Online. “Had a bit more process been in place, the company could have extracted more value from my intense and productive international experience. As a result, I decided to move on to another company. My new employer was the one that really benefited from my earlier posting abroad.”

The bottom line
Companies tend to be quite good at giving employees the information and other resources they need before heading off on assignment and while serving in international roles, but many drop the ball when it comes to continuing this support in a repatriation capacity. Although moving back home after time away isn’t the same as relocating to a foreign country with an unfamiliar culture and alien customs, it comes with its own challenges that shouldn’t be minimized or, even worse, entirely overlooked. Companies that fail to acknowledge this reality run the risk of losing some of their most valuable workers to other organizations.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Which degrees provide graduates with the best leadership skills?

Which degrees produce the best leaders?

September 26, 2016 -

Holding a degree is an essential component of securing an executive position. But which degrees produce professionals with the best leadership qualities? A recent study, reported on by Fast Company, set out to answer that question and the results were rather surprising.

The skills breakdown
The research indicated that professionals with degrees in humanities performed better in a handful of areas critical to leadership performance than MBA graduates. The study ranked MBA degree holders against various undergraduate degree holders in eight primary areas:

  • financial acumen
  • business savvy
  • compelling communication
  • driving execution
  • driving for results
  • entrepreneurship
  • influence
  • inspiring excellence

Humanities undergraduates secured high rankings for five of the eight specified skills. They most notably excelled in compelling communication, driving results and inspiring excellence. Those same competencies were only mid-range skills for professionals holding an undergraduate degree in business. However, they excelled in financial acumen and business savvy – where humanities notably lacked.

“Holding a degree is an essential component of securing an executive position.”

Somewhat surprisingly, engineering undergrads found themselves at the bottom of the leadership-equipped pile – with weak scores in six skills sets and only mid-range rankings for the remaining two (financial acumen and driving results).

These results were shocking when considering the findings of recent research by Forbes contributor Christian Stadler. According to Stadler, 27 percent of Fortune 100 CEOs hold a degree in engineering or science. Not to mention his projection that engineering majors will be at the head of the CEO race in coming years due to their tech-minded nature in a digitally-advanced era.

Education: An accurate leadership indicator?
The undergraduate findings were surprising in themselves but what about MBA holders? The research indicated that undergraduates performed better than MBAs in interpersonal skills, entrepreneurial skills and results-driven practices.

So, where did MBAs excel? Predictably, these graduates were well-equipped in areas of financial acumen. They also showed promise in their business savvy nature and strategic decision making. However, when it came to things like coaching, results and visionary leadership skills, MBAs fell notably short.

The latter has much to do with real-world skills. MBAs are often forced to step out of the business world and into school in order to secure their degrees. While there is a lot of valuable learning in the classroom, the training is conceptual at best. Hence why MBAs ranked low in terms of visionary leadership. This skill in particular is something that can only be learned and improved upon via real-world practice.

“While there is a lot of valuable learning in the classroom, the training is conceptual at best.”

The takeaway
Overall, the findings indicate that degrees may not be the best indicator of leadership ability. Despite this, professionals vying for executive positions should be mindful of the biases that come attached to their degrees.

When approaching an interview, job candidates must recognize the skills that their qualifications are known to historically lack and make up for these capabilities with the relevant responses and experiences.

For organizations undergoing the executive search and recruitment process, this is where an executive placement firm can add undeniable value. Skilled consultants can recognize when a candidate’s degree genuinely indicates proficiencies or deficiencies in certain skill areas and when the degree is partly irrelevant to the ultimate decision.

The ultimate takeaway? While education is an important stepping stone on the path to executive leadership, the area of focus is not always a direct indicator of business success. Every executive candidate presents unique circumstances which cannot be generalized. Organizations must look past degrees to fully understand whether a professional is truly equipped for leadership.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Leadership is about flexibility

Flexibility, the mark of the modern leader

September 20, 2016 -

Leadership in the modern era is symbolized by Tim Cook at Apple, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Sundar Pichai at Google. A closer examination shows the evolution of the role of the modern, more flexible CEO. According to a McKinsey report, there are a few key correlative elements that successful CEOs exhibit – self-awareness, maturity in their roles and resilience in stressful periods – that can all be couched under the umbrella of a flexible model of leadership. < !–more–>

“Flexibility is the mark of the modern leader.”

To be this flexible, the modern CEO needs to have a strong sense of self and a real understanding of what he or she wants to achieve, yet enough humility to resist arrogant decisions that could be counterproductive. Humility being the willingness to admit that he or she does not have all the answers, and that there is the distinct possibility in some situations that he or she could be wrong.

The only way a chief executive can have this level of confidence and desire to be flexible is to possess the skills for the role. According to a Harvard Business Review report, there are seven skills every CEO needs: Leadership itself, strategic thinking, technical literacy, communication, interpersonal relations and team building, change management and integrity.

The McKinsey report noted that a final key aspect that contributes to a CEO’s flexibility is his or her relevant knowledge for the role and the company. This may not include any one field of knowledge specifically, but the individual should focus on legal, financial services, tech or any number of valuable fields. Harvard Business Review contributor Boris Groysberg surveyed senior consultants at a large global executive search firm and found that a majority feel that “financial acumen and industry-specific content knowledge” were paramount for executives.

But with this flexibility, there needs to be a balanced perspective on a company’s current business climate.

When CEOs need balance
An ideal leader is expected to be achievement-, goal- and results-oriented with the ability to inspire and establish a vision for the organization. But other rules are influenced by external forces, like agility, adaptability and collaborative decision-making. These are key elements of leaders that are more or less important depending on the context.

Certainly leadership is the marriage of psychology and business, where CEOs are both driving and being driven by their agendas. This is where a leader needs to have a balanced perspective between psychology and business because his or her agenda needs to fit within the internal and external contexts of the organization. These agendas also need to align with the larger and smaller life cycles of the organization – meaning that in order for a CEO to push an agenda, he or she needs to understand when organizational life cycles will change.

Ultimately, the one unifying factor of high-performing CEOs at the Fortune 500 companies is that they are the leaders their organizations need them to be at different times. Agendas need to be what the organization needs, not what the leader wants it to need. That is also where self-awareness, organizational awareness in recognizing patterns, confidence and humility all mesh together in pushing an agenda.

Different leaders are necessary depending on circumstances
No one leadership style is better than another, it just depends on context. For example, if an organization is in a build phase and will need investment, it will need an entrepreneurial executive. But if an organization is in its institutional phase and needs a results-oriented Fortune 500-type leadership hand, it will need more of a steward at the helm. The key to any type of leadership style is consistency. That is an aspect that leaders grow and develop into during their tenures as chief executives.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Building trust within your team is a skill leaders need to work on, according to recent research.

Mending a lack of employee trust

September 15, 2016 -

Employee-executive trust is the backbone of any smooth-running organization. Professionals need to be able to trust their leaders in order to successfully execute day-to-day tasks. Yet, one in three workers don’t trust their employers, reported Fast Company. < !–more–> The latest Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed 33,000 professionals across nearly 30 countries to learn more about the levels of trust across industries and organizations.

The report found that levels of trust decrease down the company structure. Nearly 65 percent of all executives claim to trust their organizations, 51 percent of managers said the same and only 48 percent of rank and file staff reported a sense of confidence in their business. The findings indicate that there is a growing chasm of mistrust between employees and C-suite leaders. In fact, the majority of non-managerial respondents reported that they trust their peers more than their CEO for company information.

The majority of non-managerial respondents…trust their peers more than their CEO for company information.”

But what exactly is causing this level of distrust? According to the report, there are major gaps in what employees consider trust-building actions and their employers’ actual practices. One key example relates to ethics. Half of respondents claim that it is important to them that their leaders display extremely ethical behaviors. However, only 24 percent of these same participants reported that their CEOs emulate these actions.

These gaps were similar across other crucial criteria such as responsibility, feedback, transparency and listening skills. The biggest gap is arguably the most concerning though, according to the survey. While employees put a high value on the quality treatment of employees, there was a 27 percentage point gulf between the idea and the practice of it.

Digging beyond internal practices
The problem with trust in the modern business climate runs deeper than strictly internal practices for many employees. The study found that 80 percent of respondents claim they want to better understand the personal values of their CEOs.

“Employees want their organizations and the people who lead them to be motivated by more than just profit and business performance,” explained the report’s author Christopher Hannegan. “In fact, employees said they are more likely to perform better, recommend the company’s products and services, and stay with the organization if the CEO is actively and visibly engaged in societal issues.”

The desire to better understand a leader’s motivation doesn’t end there – 73 percent of participants wanted to learn more about how to overcome obstacles from their CEO and 68 percent expressed a desire to hear their personal success story. These findings are of interest to executives because they indicate that the lack of trust between employers and executives may stem from deeper concerns than previously posited.

According to recent research, employees want to understand more than a CEO's corporate values.According to recent research, employees want to understand more than a CEO’s corporate values.

The major takeaway from this study is that leaders have lost some serious control over organizational information and its provision, explained Fast Company. This is a major problem, considering staff members are among the most trusted external representatives for any given company. “As long as employees don’t trust their employers, employers cannot trust what their employees say,” concludes the report.

It is clear to see that this is an issue that needs to be remedied with increasing urgency – but how? Let’s take a look at a few key ways executives across industries can better foster trust within their organizations.

1. Execute on feedback: Asking for feedback is a great way for leaders to communicate that they trust their team; it’s also extremely effective in creating a more transparent culture. However, building genuine trust requires leaders to not only ask for feedback but to earnestly try to implement change based on those suggestions or comments. According to Forbes, requesting feedback from a team and then ignoring the results can be more damaging to trust than never asking for it at all. Executives should seek out thoughtful commentary from their team only when they have the intention of leveraging those insights into actionable shifts. Feedback is a powerful tool to engage a team and gain trust, but the execution is the most important element.

” Feedback is a powerful tool to engage a team and gain their trust.”

2. Exemplify honesty: Leaders that create an open and honest relationship with their team are fostering a deep culture of trust. Organizations that are looking to improve employee faith in leadership should ensure that transparency permeates every level of corporate policy. Leaders should let their team know what is happening with company growth – both the good and the bad. Half-hearted honesty could have an adverse effect on honesty, so executives making a commitment to transparency should make sure they go all the way. Whether it be a failure or a big deal in the making, letting your team take a front row seat will increase trust levels throughout the company.

3. Lead by example: Inc. Magazine reported on a study that found that trust ultimately stems from the tone set by executives. Leaders who lead by example are much more likely to have a staff that trusts their executive management team. Ultimately, trust is a trickle-down process. If leaders want to see an increase in trust throughout the organization, they need to be vocal about this as one of their top priorities and show their team what trust looks like in action. Executives have major influence on the actions of their team, so leading by example is crucial for improving organizational trust.

The findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer indicate that trust in the modern business climate is shaky at best, emphasizing the need for more reliable and steadfast leadership. When undergoing the process of executive search and recruitment, organizations must keep trust in mind. Can this leader foster the loyalty of your employees? Will trust be an executive priority for this candidate? If not, it may be necessary to find a candidate that will.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

CEOs need to take these four actions to deal with disruptive forces

Four actions CEOs can take to deal with disruptive forces

September 12, 2016 -

Market disruption is a term used frequently these days among executive leaders, and it has become synonymous with innovation. A recent McKinsey study actually identified common factors of disruptive innovation which highlighted the need to re-think leadership now as the global economy continues to shift. To adapt to these shifts in the global markets, Forbes contributors Karl Moore and Mary Larson examined four leadership actions that CEOs must take to deal with these forces of disruption. < !–more–>

The four actions executives need to take
These are the top priorities for CEOs to stay ahead of external disruptive market forces:

  • Identify Critical issues: Above all else, CEOs need to identify the most pressing issues that could become detrimental to corporate value in their markets. Early awareness of disruptive market forces is found by engaging with consumers, investors and organizational stakeholders.
  • Engage with appropriate people: CEOs need expertise around them to fully understand the issues that face the company. They need to talk to the best people and then trust their own informed opinions.
  • Put them to work: Deploy these team experts to provide their insights into solutions for the potential risks facing the company. This involves engaging marketing, manufacturing, customer service and various other department heads in devising strategies to deal with the disruptive forces.
  • Engage with stakeholders about strategy: To understand how these strategies will impact the entire organization, structured dialogue across all levels of the company is necessary to ensure a coherent strategy.

The importance of CEOs handling disruptive forces
Inaction in the face of disruptive market forces poses a huge risk. The goal is a combination of not letting these disruptions change the organization's strategies and vision, while also adjusting to change as it happens – at least before it engulfs the industry, as firms like Uber, Netflix and AirBNB have done.

As disruptions become threats, leaders need to be able to pinpoint exact strategies to drive positive corporate change, and there is evidence to show that employees at all levels are more attuned to the forces of change than ever before. That makes the need for engaging all personnel in corporate strategies essential in executive leadership now.

It is equally important, though, that the preparation of these strategies translate directly into critical decisions to identify new opportunities. According to the McKinsey report, strategies and future opportunities are all too often forgotten as 70 percent of time spent by the executive board focuses on immediate data with quarterly reports, audits, regulatory compliance and budgetary concerns.

Ultimately, the role of the CEO and his or her board is to develop and execute strategies that drive business improvement and align with the market and define new directions that lead to success in the long-term, not just for short-term quarterly profits.

About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world's most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.

Organizations must approach company culture with a careful strategy.

The mystery of company culture

May 2, 2016 -

Company culture has quickly become one of the most coveted traits of leading organizations. Businesses across industries are increasingly invested in creating, maintaining and refining their office culture. According to The Harvard Business Review, great culture (combined with great people) is deeply tied to some of the highest performing companies in the game. (more…)

Certain leadership characteristics can be invaluable in terms of achieving and maintaining corporate success.

4 leadership traits to propel a company toward success

April 27, 2016 -

While some CEOs strive to get their companies on the Fortune 500 list (or to improve their rankings if they’re already on it), others have their sights set on more modest accolades and achievements. Regardless of whether they run small enterprises or corporate juggernauts, all business leaders have one thing in common: They want their companies to be successful. Certain characteristics can be invaluable in terms of achieving and maintaining corporate success, while other attributes are more likely to hinder individuals’ executive careers – not to mention the viability of the companies they lead. (more…)


Infographic: Leadership lessons from today’s biggest visionaries

March 22, 2016 -

Leadership can be a tricky road to navigate. Luckily, there have been many successful leaders that can lend a tip or two on how to steer through these turbulent waters. While all of today’s biggest visionaries would agree that no-one possesses all the answers, they do have some pretty valuable insights into some key leadership criteria.

Are companies better served by two people at the helm?

United or divided: Should one or two people serve as chair and CEO?

March 21, 2016 -

Over the past few years, some companies have separated the roles of chair and CEO, some have combined the two positions and others have followed tradition by keeping the breakdown of titles and duties the same as always. So, what are the pros and cons of separate vs. combined, and is one approach better than the other across the board? (more…)

Companies that want to work with executive placement firms should keep an eye out for these elements.

7 tips for identifying a quality executive search firm

February 24, 2016 -

Companies turn to executive search consultants with the expectation of tapping into a valuable, efficient, knowledgeable and well-connected resource. The ultimate goal is to identify quality candidates with the skills each individual enterprise is looking for, but other elements, such as cultural fit, are important as well. (more…)

For an individual in an entry-level position, the path to leadership has several checkpoints along the way.

Rising through the ranks: Ascending to management and leadership

January 18, 2016 -

For an individual in an entry-level position at an organization who aspires to rise through the ranks, the path to executive leadership – and claiming his or her very own chair in the C-suite – has several checkpoints along the way.  (more…)

A list of some of the most notable leadership and management books of 2015.

Notable leadership and management books of 2015

December 31, 2015 -

In a recent two-part article series, we took a look at some professional resolutions that could help corporate leaders kick off 2016 on the right foot. The motivation and sense of potential that a new year brings can prompt many people to seek out books related to their resolutions – guides to weight loss, collections of financial tips, pointers on becoming more organized, to name but a few – and those who aspire to bolster their leadership skills are no exception in this regard. Forbes and The Globe and Mail both recently published lists of notable business books that came out in 2015, many of which contain insights and advice that could prove useful to executives eager to better themselves from a professional standpoint in 2016.


Professional resolutions are just as important as personal ones going into 2016.

Professional resolutions for 2016, part two

December 30, 2015 -

With the year quickly drawing to a close, many people are making personal resolutions intended to benefit their lives and the lives of those around them in 2016. The end of the year is also a time when executives should be thinking about their professional resolutions – namely, ways to improve upon themselves as leaders and bolster their companies’ operations. Coming up with meaningful and inspired business-focused resolutions can be tricky, so in part one, we put forward the following ideas:


What are your professional resolutions for 2016?

Professional resolutions for 2016, part one

December 29, 2015 -

The month of December is filled with merriment in many cultures and faiths, drawing to a close with a period that involves both reflecting on the past and planning for the future as the Western calendar prepares to flip over to a new year. It’s said that January was named after the Roman god Janus, who had two faces – one looking forward to the year ahead and one looking backward at the year that had recently come to an end. With that in mind, it’s fitting that this time of year is when many individuals make resolutions intended to improve their lives and those of the people around them.


A great deal of logistics management goes into ensuring gifts arrive in time for the holidays.

Preparations for – and lessons from – the 2015 holiday shopping rush

December 28, 2015 -

The winter holidays often prove to be a trying yet lucrative period for companies in the retail industry, as well as their partners and vendors. One weak link in the supply chain can bring down an executive’s carefully laid plans like a house of cards, rendering items out of stock and on back order at the most inconvenient time for consumers. Conversely, executives who are overly optimistic about demand may find themselves exiting the holiday season with surplus stock and disappointing revenues.


All of the individuals on Fortune's Businessperson of the Year List have made their mark.

Deconstructing Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year List, part two

December 24, 2015 -

Fortune Magazine recently released the 2015 iteration of its Businessperson of the Year List, which weighed a number of aspects such as profit and revenue increases, corporate stock performance, shareholder returns, ratio of debt to capital, strategic initiatives, business influence and leadership style.


Fortune recently released its 2015 Businessperson of the Year List.

Deconstructing Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year List, part one

December 22, 2015 -

As the year draws to a close, publications such as the Harvard Business Review and Fortune are beginning to release their annual rankings of standout corporate leaders.


Companies with distinctive corporate cultures are at an advantage when it comes to hiring.

Considering culture can make or break recruitment success, part two

December 17, 2015 -

In part one, we went from A to Z on the corporate spectrum – literally – by contrasting the hard-driving work environment at Amazon with the depressurized culture at Zappos. In a recent piece for the Harvard Business Review, brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn asserted that both types of workplaces are valuable due to the fact that they’re distinctive, and companies with distinctive cultures are at an advantage when it comes to hiring because it’s easy for recruiters to determine whether a prospective employee will be a good fit or a fish out of water.