Business needs self-disruptive leaders

In an interview Michael Distefano, president of Asia Pacific for Korn Ferry, sat down with AmCham China to discuss the future of work. In his view companies need self-disruptive leaders to achieve business success.


The Korn Ferry expert paints an interesting and partly worrying image of the future of our work and business. Ambitionet has summarised Michael Distefano’s most important statements during the interview:

About the “talent crunch”:

“We will be massively underemployed in terms of the number of skilled workers to fill job openings. It’s not necessarily that there aren’t enough people in the world, it’s that there aren’t enough of the right people. Korn Ferry is predicting that by 2030, there will be 47 million unfilled and open jobs around the world that will cost us trillions in unrealized GDP. You see the greatest gap in terms of demand for talent and available supply in the more developed countries, but this is a global phenomenon that is pretty pronounced in China, as well.”

About “smart” companies:

“You need to understand how much A-level talent you need, and how many B-level and C-level employees. [...] The smartest companies don’t merely compare themselves to their direct competitors. They ask who is the most disruptive and transformative? How do they set strategy and execute it? How can we emulate those best practices? Self-disruptive companies consider the new unicorn startups as much as they do those they’ve been competing against for the last 100 years.”

About self-disruptive leaders:

“Through big data analysis, our algorithms can tell us what the most successful people on the planet look like, in terms of their experiences, leadership style, personal drivers and motivators and how competent they are. And, the picture changes quite extensively by geography, industry and role function. Out of millions of executives in the database, the analysis found that only 15 per cent of us have the most disruptive, open-to-change leadership profiles that will be required for successful leadership in the future. We have entered into an era of continual learning, being comfortable with ambiguity and at ease with constant change. These are some of the requirements that self-disruptive leaders, and organisations embody.”

About education:

“All too often, kids come out of school with a solid education, but it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to be successful in the work world. We always say, you get hired for what you know and you get fired for who you are, so I think being self-disruptive, adaptive, and being able to fit into a variety of cultures is what’s going to drive success for people going forward.”

About hiring and developing talent:

“I really like the ability to use big data to help people on their leadership journeys. People are trying to achieve different things in their own careers, so we can have a very personalized conversation and use the science and the data to set them off on their leadership and learning journeys, and do it in a customized fashion. People don’t leave companies because they can make ten dollars more across the street at the competition. They generally leave because they don’t feel fulfilled or satisfied, or not enough boxes are being checked in terms of their career aspirations. Using data to create a roadmap both to guide us and to warn us where to watch out is a wonderful thing both for the organization and the individual. That’s what I’m really inspired by.”