If you want to change your leadership role in 2013, get ready for a challenge.
The expectations facing executives, especially chief executives, have escalated. Meanwhile the opportunities for advancement are few, says Nick Waterworth, the managing partner of executive search company, Watermark International. “In the commercial sector, there are not many newly-created executive roles in the market, although there is quite a bit happening where people have left or the incumbent is not up to scratch,” Waterworth says.
Boards are looking for CEOs who can simultaneously cut costs, improve productivity and grow revenue, in that order. It’s a big ask. “The jobs are very demanding,” says Waterworth. Companies have accepted that the high dollar is here to stay and are cutting costs and adjusting their business models accordingly.
Boards are also looking for international experience, either in the form of a leader born overseas, or repatriating an Australian from an overseas posting. The lure to tempt them here is no longer lifestyle, but economic stability. “The sales pitch six or seven years ago was about lifestyle, but now it is about economic stability and a future for the kids,” he says.
For leaders ready to change, here are five of best:
1. Move to the public sector: There is a lot of government activity, especially at state level, says Waterworth, and strong interest in the skills and experience that private sector executives can transfer to the public sector.
2. Hone your specialties: Executives who can demonstrate specialist knowledge in hot areas such as renewable energy, segments of the resources industry, or knowledge of regulation are in demand.
3. Become technology-savvy: Every sector is facing systemic change as a result of new technologies and the high Australian dollar; executives who are tech-savvy and thrive in fast-changing technological environments are highly sought-after.
4. Get moving: For executives willing to take interim roles, the opportunities are increasing. “The baby boomers – those aged 50 to 60 – who have, through luck, been laid off somewhere are now finding work four days a week in interim roles,” says Waterworth. “They think, I don’t get paid what I used to get, but there is lots of variety, and I am not having to play office politics. On the demand side, employers are focused on a flexible workforce, and rather than putting an executive on the payroll. They think, let’s rent an executive for the time being, and we can say goodbye with no problems.”
5. Look in the hotter sectors: Business confidence is low and uncertainty is keeping activity at a low ebb, but the best of the sectors are:
- healthcare and life sciences