Report sheds light on top qualities needed for Asian leaders to take the global center stage

February 2018 —

SINGAPORE – Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive education today released a new report, The Global Asian Leader: From Local Star to Global CXO.”  The product of a year of rigorous research, the report goes deep beneath the surface to tackle tough questions about Asian underrepresentation in executive leadership, through in-depth interviews with 119 global CXOs. The report was published in collaboration with Cargill, DBS and Microsoft.

Asia’s massive economic potential

With 60% of the world’s youth living in the Asia Pacific region, and 88% of the next billion entrants to the middle class globally poised to come from Asia, it’s almost a truism that the future of global economy lies in Asia. Despite the sheer potential of the region, however, Asian representation in the top rungs of global remains in single digit percentage terms – a worrying statistic when compared to their Western counterparts. 

Along these lines, the year-long research leading in to the report sought to uncover key reasons that were stalling the growth of Asian leaders, as well as development areas and critical gaps in the development process. Shedding light on the key strengths Asian leaders bring to the table, the report also outlines the competencies and experiences needed for Asian leaders to succeed in global roles, illustrating these concepts by sharing best practices employed in exemplar organizations to develop a robust pipeline of global Asian leaders.

Asian underrepresentation in top leadership a cause for concern 

By delineating the inherent qualities present in Asian leaders – including soft skills such as a strong work ethic, humility and empathy, as well as being VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) friendly, the report directs the spotlight on the worrying trend of Asian underrepresentation in senior leadership, subsequently advising on best practices leaders and organizations can adopt.

‘Building Global Asian Leaders

Building the Global Asian Leader

Asian leaders bring valuable attributes to the table. It is imperative that global organizations invest in developing them to realize their full potential.


“CCL has been privileged to serve clients in Asia-Pacific since the 1970s,” CCL President and CEO John R. Ryan said. “We have always approached our work in this dynamic region as an opportunity both to share our insights on effective leadership and to learn from the many talented women and men who are leading organizations here. This new study follows in that tradition of partnering with clients and friends to create cutting-edge research.”

“Today, one in three top 300 companies by revenue globally originates from Asia. Logically, we should be seeing a significant proportion of Asian leaders at the forefront of executive leadership. The reality is far from this, however,” said Dr. Thomas Goh, Managing Director and Chief Client Officer, APAC, Center for Creative Leadership. “Organizations need to understand that they need Asian leaders with a nuanced understanding of the region to leverage the Asian advantage, and develop a healthy Asian leadership pipeline to groom these talents,”

“In the research process, we held no-holds-barred conversations with senior leaders, Asian and otherwise, from the biggest Asian and global organizations, across various industries, and collated a wealth of data and insight which we used to formulate our counsel for this research,” adds Sunil Puri, Director of Research, Innovation and Product Development, Asia, CCL, who led this research.

He continues, “Ultimately, both prospective Asian leaders and the organizations they work have to take action to eradicate the bamboo ceiling. To effectively develop their workers, organizations have to find a credible executive sponsor, and curate and invest in a 3-5 year global leadership development plan for their leaders. At the same time, Asian leaders have to step outside of their comfort zones and expose themselves to different cultural environment.”

Research Methodology

A total of 119 regional/global leaders, across 68 companies were surveyed as part of this report. These individuals hailed from a mix of industries, with 83% holding business roles, and 17% senior HR executives. Out of the interviewees in the report, 61% were of Asian origin, with 31% hailing from organizations headquartered in Asia.

About the Center for Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development. By leveraging the power of leadership to drive results that matter most to clients, CCL transforms individual leaders, teams, organizations, and society. Our array of cutting-edge solutions is steeped in extensive research and experience gained from working with hundreds of thousands of leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education, CCL has locations in countries worldwide.

Stephen Martin
Center for Creative Leadership
+1 336 286 4038

Start typing and press Enter to search