New research by Heidrick & Struggles reveal that talent concerns rank high for Middle East leaders

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A new survey launched by Heidrick & Struggles has found that Middle East leaders are more concerned about leadership attraction, development, and retention, as well as leadership succession and turnover, compared to their global peers. The 2024 Heidrick & Struggles Middle East CEO and Board Survey gathered insights from 112 chief executive officers (CEOs) and board members in the Middle East on their most pertinent concerns and challenges.

According to the World Bank, the Middle East and North African economies are expected to grow by 2.7% in 2024 – up from 1.9% in 2023. However, factors such as the ongoing conflict, trade disruptions, among others continue to cast a shadow. Unsurprisingly, Middle East leaders cited economic (56%), as well as geopolitical (56%) uncertainty and volatility as the most significant issues facing their organizations in 2024. Their global peers share the same sentiments, with the global average sitting at 63% and 39% respectively.

Where Middle East leaders feel most differently from their global counterparts, however, is in the issues relating to leadership. 29% of Middle East CEOs and board members surveyed report leadership attraction, development and retention as their biggest challenge (24% as the global average), while 22% see leadership succession and turnover as their chief concern (17% as the global average). Yet on these key issues, only around a third of those who expressed concern are confident in their organization’s ability to manage them, less so compared to leaders surveyed around the world.

“In 2024, Middle East organizations face an increasingly complex external business environment, and regional intricacies that demand a localized approach. To survive and thrive this year – and beyond – companies must prioritize not only attracting the right leaders but also retaining and grooming talent from within to take on the leadership mantle,” notes Richard Guest, partner in charge of Heidrick & Struggles’ Middle East and North Africa. “With growing pressure on leaders to be more forward-looking yet aligned with current needs, the onus is on boards to help organizations stay focused on building internal capabilities and addressing competency gaps of current and emerging leaders.”

The survey also found that although the region’s leaders have about the same level of confidence in how their leadership development strategy is positioning the organization for the future, 12% report having no confidence at all – double that of the global figure.

Markus Wiesner, regional managing partner of Heidrick Consulting for Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Emerging Markets, adds, “Any effective leadership development strategy starts by having the right culture – a culture of excellence not only ensures good leaders stay, but helps organizations attract the best-fit talent from around the world. Putting in place a strategic road map is also essential, where boards and leaders must agree on the key skill sets needed for the future and view talent acquisition as a long-term, always-on imperative. If organizations see succession planning as reactive – such as in the case of a retirement or an underperforming C-suite – or lack a rigorous assessment process for their leaders, it is natural that organizations would find themselves struggling to navigate the dynamic, fast-moving Middle East landscape.”

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