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Enhancing Leadership Effectiveness for the Asian Century

Nicholas Flood
by Nicholas Flood
Jul 2, 2024 6:45:56 PM

IBM Australia & New Zealand's Managing Director, Nicholas Flood on the increasing importance of adapting leadership for other cultures and diverse business contexts. 

I am fortunate to work in a feedback rich environment.

Whether it is operating within - and applying - the management system that IBM use to drive performance; the development plan my employer has helped to construct - including the incredible experience working directly with Stephanie Loquvam from The Miles Group - or; receiving coaching and advice from my clients, colleagues, family members and friends, there is no shortfall of opportunities to identify development areas as I focus on increasing leadership effectiveness and personal growth.

An important learning over my career is; when there is a consistency and uniformity of feedback across multiple sources, all at the same time, it’s time to sit up and take what is being shared very seriously.

I am experiencing one of those moments at present so thought that I would commit my thoughts and high-level action plan to paper.

Feedback Received

The specific feedback I’ve been receiving of late, is that I have an opportunity to demonstrate that I can employ different strategies to lead effectively in other cultures and diverse business contexts beyond Australia and New Zealand.

From Feedback to Action

Let’s unpack this feedback from a strengths–based perspective and identify what unique sources of advantage I can tap into to help me grow:

Source of Advantage 1: APAC Clients

We live and work in a region with intense human, economic and technological vibrancy.

When Asia’s economy officially became larger than any other region in the world, it signalled a new era of Asian leadership. Globalisation fuelled Asia’s integration into global flows of trade, capital, talent, technology, and innovation, and by 2019, 210 of the world’s 500 biggest companies by revenue were Asian, and 119 of the world’s 330 unicorns were Asian. The region’s immense growth revealed that the future of Asia was no longer just a story about China, the Asian Century would be defined by the entire region.

With this source of value identified, over the month of July, I am committing to developing an understanding of two things from each of the five (5) sub-segments of APAC (i.e. ASEAN; Greater China; India & South Asia; Korea; Japan) as follows:

1) I will identify the leading technological capability unique to each market – for example, I have started research India Prime Minister Modi’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) including developing an understanding of how it is being used to drive benefits across the Indian economy.

2)  I will explore the unique cultural identity of each country as identified by Gert Jan Hofstede (a former IBMer, no less!) in his seminal work Cultural Dimensions. This is the most comprehensive study of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture.

Source of Advantage 2: Australian Background & Upbringing

Today, Australia boasts a population where nearly one in three people were born overseas, representing over 300 ethnicities and speaking more than 300 languages. This cultural plurality enriches Australian society in countless ways.

Multiculturalism has unquestionably contributed to Australia’s economic success as a strong and stable economy with a positive outlook for growth. We've been growing for the past 30 years at an impressive average rate of 3.1%, above the 2.1% average for advanced economies. Esther Rajadurai, Economist with The McKell Institute goes so far as citing that “Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural society”.

While I am not convinced that the success of the Australian experience is fully understood by leaders in other regions, I feel that it is critical to take confidence from the knowledge that the success of multiculturism in Australian undoubtedly bestows upon leaders from this market an ability to scale leadership effectiveness across multiple cultures and broader geographical areas by virtue of lived experience and Australian values.

Source of Advantage 3: Colleagues and Teammates

For the past five (5) years, I have been fortunate to be a member of IBM’s Leadership Team in Asia Pacific and, over the past fifteen (15) years have accumulated a network of industry leaders operating across the APAC region.

While this has (a) built some familiarity in knowing how best to engage with stakeholders from other cultural backgrounds, and; (b) imparted insights into what makes each country in Asia Pacific unique, I must be self-critical and appreciate that I have not been fully capitalising upon this opportunity to this point in time.

Given the significant experience, success and reputation of my colleagues and peers, more focussed and frequent engagement with these leaders will allow me to maximise cross-cultural learnings and insights as I look to improve my own effectiveness as a leader for the Asian century.

Fortunately, this is work I can start immediately as I write this reflection on a plane bound for Korea to meet with the APAC Senior Leadership Team for our 2Q leadership offsite.

Additionally, and over the coming quarter, I am committed to meeting with each of IBM’s fourteen (14) country leaders in APAC to understand from them what leadership style is most effective in their specific cultural context.

I will continue this process of structured and unstructured engagement through the second half of 2024 and beyond.


As we progress further into the 21st century, the importance for leaders to hone their effectiveness in adapting their leadership for other cultures and diverse business contexts will become increasingly important.


  1. Australian Trade & Investment Commission, “Australian Economic landscape” , retrieved on 29 June 2024 from: r,Outlook%2C%20April%202023%20database).
  2. McKell Institute, “Why Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural society”, retrieved on 29 June 2024 from:
  3. McKinsey & Company, “The Asian Century, two years on: A look back” retrieved on 29 June 2024 from: