I arrived in Singapore at the start of the 2016 Chinese New-Year festivities. Amidst the seasonal markets, cheering processions and abundant well-wishers, I was tasked with continuing the development of Potential Squared’s business in Asia. In this new environment, two points from a professional perspective stood out: 1) the enthusiastic response our leadership programmes were generating with our participants and clients, and; 2) the numerous reports, articles, papers and discussions concerning or alluding to ‘the leadership gap’ in Asia.

When those three words are used in isolation, I find ‘the leadership gap’ insultingly condescending, especially since I was painfully aware of my own personal leadership gap. It implies a lack of latent talent. In contrast, what I see is an abundance of opportunity and a  need to quickly develop new leaders for rapidly emerging and changing business and social environments.

Let’s take two areas that have been commonly identified as ’gaps’:

The need to maintain dignity in the face of setbacks, mistakes and criticism, otherwise known as ‘saving face’.

Challenge: Communication patterns coupled with hierarchical deference can be significant obstacles to objective and quick exchanges of information. In contrast, a work culture where people exchange their views openly delivers a competitive and commercial edge.

This edge comes from increasing capability in three areas. The first is innovation, or the ability to fail faster and succeed quicker, an IDEO Design Thinking philosophy. The second is personal development, by taking the risk to put oneself ‘out there’ in new situations, challenges and environments. The third is the development of others, backed by the desire to give and accept feedback.

Opportunity: At Potential Squared, we develop an innovative approach through the ExperienceInnovation™ half-day programme. This gives organisations and leaders the mindsets, behaviours and processes to identify, explore, encourage and exploit commercial opportunities in an open environment.

Skills to develop authentic, professional relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

Challenge: To make a powerful and authentic first impression on clients, partners and government officials, a leader must have the confidence to represent themselves and their organisation. This requires being on the ’front foot, certain of one’s own value and strengths. Leaders must be able to portray this sense of self in a variety of testing situations without a hint of arrogance or condescension; confident vulnerability is the essential essence.

Opportunity: Our Executive Presence programme gives leaders a high intensity workout to establish, strengthen and project their authentic leadership brand. Our consultants are chosen for their ability to use Intuitive Rapport to quickly establish a learning environment where our Refreshingly Direct approach to feedback provides immediate value. It also role-models how a high-performance feedback culture can be established.

As well as offering discrete events, we’ve supported our clients in running more ambitious development programmes. With one of our technology clients on their Future Leaders Initiative, for example, we delivered input on Authentic Leadership, Coaching, Innovation, and Building an Innovation Culture’ for one of our technology clients. I’m confident that programmes such as these will continue to turn gaps into opportunities. I look forward to toasting to our success, and the success of our clients, in 2017 – and well beyond.