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5 Trends for Securing Leadership Talent


The leadership sourcing trends that you need to know.


When McKinsey proclaimed that the war for talent had begun in 1997, the need for companies around the world to make their people a priority was highlighted. Since then, the impending trough of executive talent forecast for the 2010’s has presented a serious challenge for organisations focused on succession planning for their leadership teams. As we begin the new decade, we have explored 5 of the key leadership acquisition trends for African businesses.



1. Diversity – It isn’t going away.

The makeup of senior teams is changing, and so the diversification of leadership continues to be an important topic. The performance benefits are well documented. McKinsey found that companies with an ethnically diverse leadership team perform 33% better than less diverse competitors. They also found that African companies with a female presence at board level had 20% higher operating profits than their competitors. With the impact of diverse talent in leadership roles beyond doubt, organisations must implement strategies aimed at diversifying their talent. This begins with forward planning, exploring the talent market and identifying high-potential diverse talent.


2. Talent for tomorrow – Planning for the long term.

There was a time when organisations would find graduate and early career talent and develop those with high potential into leadership roles, but times are changing. Leadership talent is more agile in the digital age, opportunities are more common, and the access that high-potential individuals have is greater than it has ever been before.

In the advent of LinkedIn, digital networking allows talent to present themselves in the shop window of leadership. As a result, companies must respond by widening their understanding of future leadership talent. Organisations need to cast their talent nets outside their own workforces, understanding the market for talent across their geographic region, sectors and functions. Dynamic mapping of the talent market is essential for future planning and the continued impact of your leadership team.

Companies with a deeper understanding of high-potential talent will gain the agility to hire as and when they need leaders who will make an immediate impact.


3. Cultural Fit – Where you are, and where you want to be.

In 2019 we discovered just how important an organisation's culture is for both their bottom line, and their talent acquisition. According to the Careers in Africa Employer of Choice study, 50% of African professionals want to work for leaders because of their future vision, making cultural identity a key factor for talent acquisition. Put simply, companies cannot afford to bring in leadership talent who aren’t an exceptional cultural fit. Those tasked with finding current and future leadership talent must focus on company culture and finding leaders who will exemplify this as part of the employer brand. If your organisation is happy with your current employer brand, find leaders who personify this and will carry it forward. If your organisation needs an employer rebrand, you must identify where to find talent who will mould this future image, and plan to bring them into your company at the right time.


4. Leveraging Legacy – Opportunities for impact.

Over the past decade we have seen a continuing decline in the length of CEO tenure, as leaders look to make an instant impact at an organisation before moving to a new challenge. Legacy is key. This raises two interesting questions for those responsible for finding leadership talent;

  • How can your organisation offer opportunities for impact?

To be attractive to talent, you need to demonstrate where potential leaders can create their legacy. Whether this is a financial, social or cultural impact - your employer brand must be clear on the company’s mission and help leaders understand where they might fit into the company’s future.

  • How can your organisation plan for succession?

With instant legacy being the overall goal, organisations need to prepare for regular transitions in leadership teams. Identifying your next talent target in advance will be a key challenge for board members and hiring managers going forward.


5. Technology – Searching for leaders in the digital age.

The use of recruitment technologies will continue to grow, especially in executive search efforts. The global economy will see talent from further afield becoming interested in leadership roles across Africa, be it diaspora in Europe, America and China, or leaders within Africa in search of a new challenge. How your search partner connects you with this talent will be key to strong employee experience, and make the difference between a successful hire, and a lost opportunity.

Over the next decade we will see an increase in AI within the recruitment space, alongside digital interviews, assessments and networking. According to PwC, 81% of African CEOs have no plans to utilise AI in the next 3 years, putting African businesses way behind the global perspective, and leaving a big gap for forward thinking African leaders to get ahead of the curve. With remote working becoming increasingly common, there will come a time soon where the first time a new leader visits the HQ of their organisation is on their first day of work. Harnessing the power of technology to source, select and onboard leadership talent will be critical for success.

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