Demands and expectations of leaders are high in today's disruptive times – specially if they are tasked to leading the path to a USD10 trillion economy. Organisations need self-disruptive leaders for future success in Indonesia. 

Indonesia, the 4th most populous country in the world, the 3rd largest democracy and already a member of the GDP trillion-dollar club, is poised to become the 4th largest economy by 20301. Since 2000, Indonesia has seen a yearly average growth rate exceeding 5%, boosting the ranks of its burgeoning middle class. According to projections by the Ministry of Finance, technology will add an annual $2.8 trillion to the Indonesian economy by 2040. To accelerate its development, Indonesia is dedicating upwards of 0.8% of GDP towards science, technology, and innovation, more than its ASEAN partners. Although a few industries have already made substantial progress toward digital transformation (e.g. manufacturing, finance, e-commerce and energy), a lot remains to be done to enhance productivity and sustain or exceed the current GDP growth rate.

And then this happened…the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 has considerably slowed down the world economy and Indonesia has not been spared. Paradoxically, it laid bare structural and systemic inefficiencies that highlight the importance to redouble efforts toward a major digital leap and to grow a new breed of leadership to face these multiple interlocking challenges. Indeed, the world of work is changing.

Indonesia’s industry has been scrambling to adjust. According to a recent Korn Ferry Indonesia survey on the impact of the pandemic on business (involved a broad sample of 394 organisations), although 90% of companies have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place to ensure business sustainability, as many as 72% of these companies have needed to make substantial adjustments in the face of the protracted crisis. These results highlight for a different breed of leader with a growth mindset, and for evergreen adaptations in the face of a VUCA world. Economic Advisor to the Governor of Jakarta, Mr. Wijayanto Samirin abounds in the same direction: Above and beyond developing leadership skillsets, the most important priority for leaders will be to develop a learning agility mindset. We need to educate our leaders and our team to become more open minded and adaptive.”

The third leg of the tripod that will support the whole leadership structure is technology according to Mr. Alex Denni, Deputy Minister - Human Resources, Technology and Information for State-Owned Enterprises. New future-ready leaders will need these three elements to survive, thrive and develop their teams:

  • Mindset
  • Skillset
  • Toolset2

To ensure organisations succeed in a rapidly changing world, a new kind of future-ready leader must emerge. Current models of leadership only provide partial answers to the challenge. Click To Tweet

To ensure organisations succeed in a rapidly changing world, a new kind of future-ready leader must emerge. Current models of leadership only provide partial answers to the challenge. However, a recent and innovative study by the Korn Ferry Institute reveals that the ideal leader for tomorrow’s disruptive (and disrupted) business environment must possess 5 key traits to become the Self-Disruptive Leader organisations need to succeed. It was published before the current pandemic and as you will see, how prescient the model is for today’s leadership!

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This model for the modern leader incorporates and builds on existing concepts of learning agility, digital savviness, and inclusive leadership, and highlights the importance of creating opportunities and quickly capitalising on the shared collective knowledge of colleagues and the vast array of stakeholders. In this new paradigm, the prime source of competitive advantage lies in connecting resources and people adeptly to build an innovative ecosystem. Korn Ferry Indonesia undertook a qualitative research building on the original research to investigate 1) whether the model generalises to the Indonesian market place and 2) if so, what are practical applications of the model for the economy at large, including state-owned enterprises and the private sector alike. We asked some of the most preeminent human capital thought leaders in the country and here is what we found:

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As Wayne Gretzky, one of the best players in the history of ice hockey once said, “I skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” The ability of business leaders to anticipate where the market is going has never been more important than it is today. At the convergence of big data, artificial intelligence, strategic thinking and sensible intuition, there is an inflection point where leaders can distance themselves from the competition and wrest clarity out of chaos. “Leaders should not prepare their talent for positions, but for the skills they will need in the future” opines Mr. Ihsannuddin, Human Capital & General Affairs Director for the Indonesia Port Corporation.

This ability to cut through clutter and use emerging trends out of reams of data points, to discern patterns within the complexity, is a key advantage of self-disruptive leaders. Mr. Herdy Rosadi Harman (BRI Human Capital Director) shared: In response to the current pandemic, BRI has redoubled efforts to reshape and reinvent its workforce planning processes. For example, they are setting up nimble team-based and project-based temporary organisations to fulfil strategic initiatives that disband when their mission has been completed. As a result, they are poised to recover faster than originally predicted at the height of the pandemic.

This ability to cut through clutter and use emerging trends out of reams of data points, to discern patterns within the complexity, is a key advantage of self-disruptive leaders Click To Tweet


A leader must recognise that every team member has his/her own purpose. Therefore, becoming a leader/coach is now the new leadership paradigm. With this nurturing approach, people are more likely to engage and change.” says Mr. Dialah Hutabalian of the State-Owned Enterprise Forum for Excellence. At the heart of visionary leadership lie three simple but powerful capabilities:

  • Energise employees with a clear vision of where the organisation is going.
  • Clearly explain how the leader will support the team’s success and how he/she will help them to get there.
  • Communicate expectations and the vital role that each team member will play in reaching this vision.

The recent and growing trend toward human experience management is a potent example of where we are heading in terms of people management. It’s no longer just about what the organisation wants, but it’s also (and mainly) about what each individual employee needs to contribute and perform at his/her best, ultimately achieving organisational goals.

Mr. Rene Suhardono Canoneo, President Commissioner at PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol believes that, in order for leaders to drive a team, they need to be open to criticism, to be authentic and be unafraid of showing vulnerability at times. "The more we show our humanity, the easier it will be for team members to follow our lead".


The character a leader must possess to be self-disruptive is humility, to be humble enough to recognise that the world and the way we serve customers is changing. It takes a good dose of humility for a leader to listen and learn” believes Ms. Ripy Mangkoesoebroto, People & Culture Director at Sampoerna. Although design thinking has been around for a while, the capacity for organisations to nimbly adapt and turn on a dime, to learn from mistakes quickly and cheaply, to improvise and experiment with little deference to history, protocol or tradition has emerged as a critical capability for all leaders today. According to Mr. Rene, it is essential to create a work environment and processes where leaders and employees can make mistakes and fail “safely”. In these times of pandemic where certainty has all but vanished, necessity becomes the mother of invention.

As many organisations are learning around the world, this reality is painfully being brought to light in the hazy glow of the current pandemic. Indeed, it is forcing organisations to quickly learn how to rethink their business strategy, reshape their organisation, revamp their operational model, and re-organise the way they operate and manage their workforce. This white belt mentality, child-like curiosity, and openness to experimentation gives a distinct advantage to self-disruptive leaders. Building this mindset in Indonesian leaders is the passion of Mr. Agus Widjojo, Governor of the National Resilience Agency: “We need to infuse new ideas from around the world and facilitate the flow of knowledge within Indonesia to produce constant innovation and desired business outcomes”. This is the true spirit of the curious and ever learning leader.


It has been said that no man is an island. In a world of increasing inter-connectedness, economists and laymen alike can witness the collective good that is created by the ability of leaders to bring people together, to connect the dots and to integrate businesses vertically and horizontally. The object is not to control, but to collaborate and find common ground with partners to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. The economy is becoming dominated by companies that can harness vast resources that they do not own, including the Gojek and Tokopedia of this world.

Mr. Agus has an elegant way of putting it: “We must shift from ego to eco”. Leaders must move outside of their comfort zone. “The toughest competition is not with others but with ourselves”. Being a leader today has nothing to do with lording over others and is all about reaching out quickly within and beyond the organisation to seize opportunities and create value quickly.

Mr. Ihsannuddin provides a powerful example of what it means to extend partnerships at the ecosystem level for IPC. They are already hard at work in crafting strategies to go beyond managing the port itself and spread their wings along the value chain. It involves the supply chain, the customers, and every aspect of the ecosystem. IPC is shifting from the “landlord“ mindset to a “smart“ port mindset where digital transformation and business enablement is setting sail.

It is vital to not only partner with vendors, suppliers, the different levels of government and the community, but it is also essential to partner within the organisation. Mr. Wijayanto Samirin could not agree more: “Leaders need to build and maintain internal talent pools to promote talent mobility and rotations. The purpose of this talent pool is to flexibly accommodate rapid transfer of knowledge as well as transcending silos and organisational boundaries”.


Although hearts are small organs, they have a much bigger meaning than their physical shape. When the heart is sick, the whole body is sick. The same can be said of workers and cultures. No matter how good machines get at replacing humans, they will never have the heart, the spirit and the ability to connect.” states Mr. Alex Denni. Over the past few years, the #metoo and the #blacklivesmatter movements have sharply brought to light the importance of the Inclusive Leader. This is the realm of the authentic leader who integrates a variety of perspectives, not for the sake of mere equality, but to foster innovation and transformation. It is the domain of inquisitive, emotionally resilient, and flexible leaders who display courage in the face of adversity. Research has shown that trust is enhanced when the three following components are present:

  • Credibility - Technical and managerial aptitudes that are displayed and recognised by peers and subordinates alike.
  • Integrity - Honesty, authenticity and reliability at the core of the leader’s behaviors.
  • Benevolence - the genuine and communicated desire for the subordinate to succeed and in so doing, contributing to the team and the organisation’s success.

There’s a stronger push by Indonesian leaders to focus on trust in fostering sustainable business success. It starts with pioneers such as Mr. Batara Sianturi, CEO of Citi Indonesia, whose mission is to increase the proportion of women in management to 40% within the next few years. This is all the more important for BRI, a bank with a strong social purpose. Mr. Herdy, a recipient of the BUMN Leaders Award, believes that authentic leadership and earning the trust of employees (trusting first) contributes to enhanced commitment and engagement.

Based on our conversations with some of the best HR minds in the country, we came to appreciate the prescience and the vitality of the self-disruptive leader for the Indonesian economy, for the health of the organisations, and for the success of each and everyone of us. The self-disruptive leader not only disrupt themselves, but they also positively disrupt the world around them. Let us join these trailblazers for the prosperity of Indonesia.  


This article is contributed by Satya Radjasa, Stephane Michaud, Chandi Conrad, Khairi Pandya, Aysha Arkya, Jamal Baziad, Masandi Riwan from Korn Ferry Indonesia.

[1] IMF and World Bank reports

[2] Learning 5.1: Tiba Duluan Di Masa Depan, Alex Denni

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Stephane JP Michaud PhD is a Client Partner for Advisory based in Korn Ferry Indonesia. With over 20 years of experience, he helps leaders and their organisations achieve their growth objectives by optimising human potential, using evidence-based management and stakeholder engagement to improve policies and practices, as well as the lives of employees.

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