Richard Day: Young leaders have eye on big picture

By Richard Day

Almost two-thirds of young leaders say they are expecting economic growth to improve over the next 12 months, Richard Day writes.
Almost two-thirds of young leaders say they are expecting economic growth to improve over the next 12 months, Richard Day writes.

Young leaders have an eye on the bigger picture - and are optimistic about the view.

No one can blame you for thinking big. Having a broad vision can help businesses achieve more, but they shouldn't neglect the smaller details at the expense of the bigger picture.

As Steve Jobs once said: "start small, think big".

The question is, do young business leaders have that balance, and do their more experienced counterparts think big enough?

Differing opinions

These questions don't come out of nowhere. PwC's recent Tomorrow's Leaders Today report shows a disparity between how current CEOs and young businesspeople think.

The research surveyed 216 young leaders across the world, in partnership with AIESEC, and compared the answers to those given by CEOs in PwC's New Zealand CEO Survey 2016.

The younger demographic proved to have their minds on some pretty strong issues, with the group saying the top threats for global business are social instability, the environment and unemployment.

By comparison, it appears that our more experienced business leaders here in New Zealand had an eye on the finer points of commerce, with top risks including overregulation, exchange rate volatility and the availability of key skills.

Richard Day is a PwC Partner in the Financial Assurance practice.
Richard Day is a PwC Partner in the Financial Assurance practice.

Perhaps neither side is right nor wrong, and the best mindset is a balance of the two - a combination of big-picture thinking and down-to-earth operating.

Think globally, act locally

In many ways, issues like social instability and environmental problems are global ones. Seeing as this younger generation have grown up in a highly connected and globalised world, the results make some sense.

Meanwhile, the top threats put forward by New Zealand's business leaders are no doubt also felt in other countries, though they do appear more localised in nature. Changing regulation and legislation, skills shortages and a fast-moving Kiwi dollar have all been local issues in recent times.

There are clearly things both generations can learn from each other. Younger leaders may benefit from focusing on the issues that run behind the scenes, such as managing the risks of changing regulation and exchange rate volatility. Putting these smaller puzzle pieces in place will no doubt help them to build and refine that larger picture - indeed, it's impossible to do so without them.

Our CEOs too can take inspiration from their younger counterparts. While the exchange rate makes a huge difference to the income or cost of doing business both locally and internationally, having a wider vision could help them diversify in an increasingly globalised world.

Growth, optimism and opportunities

One of the most important findings from PwC's report, and one which highlights a stark contrast between the two groups, is around optimism.

Almost two-thirds of young leaders said they are expecting economic growth to improve over the next 12 months. Less than a quarter of current CEOs in New Zealand said the same. This might be the optimism of youth, but could also reflect a fresh take on the need to constantly innovate where the younger generation sees opportunity, while current leaders see increased costs and risk.

The potential impact of this confidence is particularly exciting. Existing leaders should seek to leverage their young teams' positivity and tap into new growth opportunities, pushing ahead with disruption and innovation, and taking both to new levels.

So the future looks bright, but to get there, we'll need strong leadership from our current CEOs to bring the best out of tomorrow's leaders.

PwC Herald Talks: Generation War on September 14 7am-9am at SKYCITY Theatre. Tickets are available at iTicket.

- NZ Herald

Richard Day is a PwC Partner in the Financial Assurance practice

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