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Retaining the best people is the most critical approach to successful corporate performance: Clarke Murphy

Sustainable skill set, which includes agility, flexibility and the speed with which to change directions fast and intelligently, should be possessed by a leader during this crisis.


ETHRWorld | July 27, 2020



The ETHRWorld article, “Retaining the best people is the most critical approach to successful corporate performance: Clarke Murphy,” featured Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy​ in a Q&A session on sustainable leadership and how the COVID-19 crisis is changing the game. The article is excerpted below.

With the onset of the crisis brought on by COVID-19, the requirement of new kinds of business leaders is much more than ever before. In an interaction with ETHRWorld, Clarke Murphy, CEO, Russell Reynolds Associates, shares his insights on the transformation of leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and the need for organisations to have a sustainable leader to ensure the success of a business. Edited excerpts:
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What are the key points covered by the ‘Leadership for the Decade of Action’ report by Russell Reynolds Associates and the UN Global Compact?
The report highlights that the world is not as equal, not as progressive, not as clean as we would have hoped 20 years ago by now. Through this report, we take a look at sustainable leaders who are leading companies successfully and sustainably; features about them that make them different than just being commercially successful leaders. It also looks at the most successful commercial operations and the leaders who have led them and find out what they have in common.

The report covers 10,000 companies who were UNGC’s members who signed up for sustainability and contains interviews of around 60 companies all over the world. It became apparent relatively quickly that there were commonalities of leadership with both common mindsets and skill sets. The report further brings out the attributes which other organisations can look out for and promote the people with such attributes sooner and hire them more so that their company can operate more sustainably and more successfully.

What kind of characteristics or leadership skills do you think a sustainable leader should possess?
Sustainable skill set, which includes agility, flexibility and the speed with which to change directions fast and intelligently, should be possessed by a leader during this crisis. Agility enables a leader to successfully switch gears to change plans, adapt quickly and operationally.

The next thing is communication skills, which have probably never been as important as before in business history. It becomes extremely important right now for leaders to communicate well with their employees who fear for their safety while getting to work, or face challenges in remote work, or with the investors.

A sustainable leader should also be able to switch gears quickly to have a successful company and have the ability to be disruptively innovative. Companies which were going to digitize their operations in the next 2-3 years got it done in 6-12 weeks because they had no choice. So, change has got to become a sustainable leader’s friend and not the enemy.
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What are the prerequisites or primary resources required to bring such a transformation in this crisis?
The most important prerequisite is retention. A corporation has become more than just an employer; it has become more of a community. That is why most companies are asked about the safety or transportation of their people during this crisis as employees expect the organisation to take care of their health and safety.

People also expect their companies to take a stand in instances of social injustice, which was not the case before. Employees also have to believe in a company whether the company is operating more sustainably, whether the company is promoting or retaining women and diverse groups. People will grow with their fleet particularly the young generation. Hence, retaining the best people is the most critical approach to successful corporate performance.

Corporate performance also relies more on the channel element than ever before to help the companies transform. Leaders should also rely on increased speed of transformation as a strategic approach to success. The speed of transformation has to be accepted as a way of survival and life for corporations.

To read the full article, click here​.