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Enabling adaptive leadership: Interim Executive's invaluable contribution

​In today's fast-paced business world, it's not the strongest or most intelligent, but the most adaptive that will sustain. Leadership in 2023 and beyond demands a new toolkit of skills and a shift away from traditional management approaches. Trust, responsiveness, and adaptability are critical currencies in the market and Interim Executives can be indispensable for organisations willing to develop an adaptive leadership mindset.

Trust as a key currency

To stand out as a leader and bring value to your organisation, trust – the cornerstone of successful leadership in the modern world – must replace fear as the driving force behind decision-making and actions.

As a leader, you need to be responsive, flexible and capable of navigating rapid change. In the current climate, you may lead five generations of workers, each with distinct needs and expectations. Interim Executives have the essential "human" skills and deep industry expertise to guide your team through this demanding scenario.

Top 5 trends impacting the future of work

Watermark Search International’s 2023 Annual Interim Executive Survey (DOWNLOAD NOW) revealed the top issues expected to influence or disrupt business strategy in the coming year:

  1. Finding and retaining the best people (58%).

  2. Financial disruption (42%).

  3. Post-pandemic organisational transformation (41%).

  4. Fear of change and old ways of thinking by leaders (42%).

Interim Executives: The missing piece in adaptive leadership

The role of Interim Executives in cultivating an adaptive leadership mindset is paramount. Organisations look for specific attributes in interim executives, such as:

Guiding and motivating teams – Interim Executives bring a wealth of experience to encourage teams to deliver greater results. Their leadership expertise is instrumental in helping organisations face change head-on and overcome challenges.

Developing and implementing strategies – Interim Executives understand the need to craft strategies that enable growth in the post-pandemic world.

Domain knowledge, adaptability, and speed – In a tumultuous business environment, domain knowledge, adaptability and agility are highly sought-after. Organisations are looking for leaders who can quickly adapt to evolving business models, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic – and Interim Executives are an ideal fit, as they bring valuable experience, expertise and agility to the table.

A multifaceted career approach

The traditional career path has evolved: many people no longer expect to retire at 67. Instead, they plan for a diverse portfolio of work arrangements, which may include Interim Executive roles, contracting, part-time work, flexible schedules, hybrid roles, volunteering, board positions, advisory roles, consulting or a combination of these career approaches.

The Interim Executive landscape

Interim Executives come from diverse backgrounds and their roles span sectors. Our survey found:

  • 60% earn between $1000 and $1800 per day.

  • 25% have served as CEOs, either currently or in the past.

  • 68% are in C-suite roles.

  • 1/3 have board member experience.

Interim Executives: Bridging the skills gap

Organisations are continuously transforming their key functions to establish sustainable operating models. According to our survey, the main focus areas include:

  • Project and program management (31%)

  • Finance (22%)

  • Human resources (18%).

Our survey found organisations are increasingly turning to Interim Executives to borrow specialist skills not available in-house (28%); and business transformation and change management assignments account for 25% of interim executive assignments. These professionals are crucial in maintaining business continuity and implementing transformational change.

The for-purpose sectors such as government, not-for-profit and healthcare, remain at the forefront of alternative talent sourcing across these work streams. As of mid-2023, the following roles were the most commonly filled interim executive positions:

Attracting and retaining talent as the ‘Great Realignment’ continues

Approximately 71% of our survey respondents had re-evaluated their careers and made changes during the past 12 months. Interestingly, 85% of women and 65% of men explored new career paths, potentially influenced by increased caring demands during the pandemic. Only 18% did not make any changes, possibly indicating they had already found their ideal way of working.

Adaptive leaders understand the talent war means their organisation must offer an attractive Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to motivate employees to join and remain with the company.

Cost vs. value

Organisations may believe engaging Interim Executives can be financially challenging. However, our research found the long term value they can generate for an organisation outweighs the short term cost, especially in important areas such as organisational stability and resilience during transition. Interim Executives offer exemplary leadership without eyeing permanent positions in the organisation and their willingness to deliver results and move on can be a significant asset.

As a survey participant notes, “A lot of employers don’t think about using the Interim workforce. They are transfixed on finding the permanent person they want to love and hold onto, but they just aren’t there”.

Keeping an open mind

As businesses seek to excel in the post-pandemic world, adaptive leadership is not a nice to have but a necessity. Interim Executives play a vital role in nurturing this capability. They bring an incredible combination of talent, experience and wisdom to any seat at the leadership table and provide the proficiency and agility needed to navigate new challenges. A strong workforce strategy will always have an internal focus though we also encourage organisations to actively pursue talent with key skills to achieve their business goals – and Interim Executive assignments offer an excellent solution.

If your organisation is interested in engaging this talented cohort, or you’re an executive looking for a great new opportunity, we’d like to help you.

To learn more about adaptive leadership and to read about all things Interim Executive, please download our 2023 Annual Interim Executive Survey now.

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