Key challenges for Asian corporations lie in foreseeing changes in rapidly changing environments and creating multicultural offices to thrive as a global player, says a top South Korean executive.
Lee: Proper attitude trumps intelligence
Asian companies have paraded to join the ranks of world's leading firms as their economic power and competitiveness increase, said Lee Suk-chae, the chief executive of KT Corporation, South Korea's leading telecommunications service provider.
Mr Lee said Asian companies have a large pool of motivated and talented staff with some niches in skills and great involvement of female staff, but they are still performing less efficiently in blending global talents in their offices.
"Apple Inc and other companies in the Western Hemisphere hire people from different cultures to work together. Asian companies lag behind their Western counterparts in that sense. If you want to be a global company, this is a necessity, not a luxury, in this rapidly changing world," he said in an interview with the Bangkok Post.
Mr Lee was the winner of the 11th CNBC Asia Business Leaders Awards for talent management.
The award honoured his achievement in preparing the next generation of leaders to align their business strategies, staff training and performance-based reward system as well as for his high level of engagement with workforce and good staff retention rate.
"I value attitude most in deciding on human resources management. I always emphasise that human resources and physical resources are different. Physical resources are like technology or human heads _ they do not have passion or the heart. Human beings have not only brains but passion," Mr Lee said.
"Even if you are smart, if you don't have a proper attitude or the heart, you are making a disaster."
Among other elements for a qualified workforce is their adherence to the organisation's code of conducts.
Changes in the valuation system towards performance from networking are an accomplishment in a Confucian society like South Korea, where human relations are a conspicuous factor, Mr Lee said.
A few days after Mr Lee was named chief executive of KT in September 2009, he announced a merger deal.
Under his helm, the company was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index in 2010.
Mr Lee said Asian business leaders must recognise the world's business environment is changing faster than what the old generation of business leaders envisaged.
"No companies are safe from change. There is no status quo. People must be ready to adjust their mindsets and the way they behave to rapid changes in the environment they belonged to. Otherwise, they'll lag behind," Mr Lee said.
"Things are changing very rapidly. When you realise changes are already occurring, it is too late. You must try to foresee looming changes and prepare yourself for those changes. This applies not only to Asian companies but the world over."
Firms' ability to thrive amidst changes very much depends on leadership. The role of CEO is paramount, but he needed to keep his mind open and have trustworthy staff to listen to, Mr Lee said.
"The role of CEO is basically setting priorities," he said.
"You must encourage debate, conversation and freedom of communication as well as listen to advice and opinions. Then you will have a clear mind of what's going on," Mr Lee said.
"Based on those judgements, you can set priorities, then muster resources to deal with it. The most important job for a CEO is to set the priority correctly. Once that is done, you must be ready to take risks."
He said the most important task for any leader is execution. Leaders should execute the very details to get a clear idea of what needs to be done.
"The steps are setting priority, muster resources and execute boldly," Mr Lee said. "They say the devil is in the details. In executing a certain priority issue, you must meticulously be involved in details."
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- Writer: Parista Yuthamanop