Making ‘lateral entry’ work

How India can tap into new sources of leadership talent
Most CEOs are grappling with one particular challenge, irrespective of industry or geography: getting the right leadership talent. Governments face this challenge too. The Indian government has responded to this challenge by taking the initiative to invite executives from beyond the ranks of the civil service to apply for certain Joint Secretary posts. While the idea clearly has merit, success is not automatically guaranteed. At Egon Zehnder we have worked extensively with governments around the world on similar initiatives, and have identified five elements that increase the chances of success. Successful recruiting is only part of the equation; the selected lateral hire must also be primed for success in his or her new organisation. We were able to demonstrate the benefits of a systematic approach with a senior executive that we hired for the cabinet of a European country. We started by identifying cultural differences between the executive’s old and new environments and helped develop strategies the executive could use to navigate this change. We then created an extensive playbook with detailed profiles of the management team outlining each person’s priorities and concerns, and provided coaching to help the executive best position himself with his new peers.
India’s lateral entry programme has the potential to introduce new thinking and new expertise into key ministries. Leveraging on lessons learned elsewhere will allow India to more completely draw from the country’s rich array of talent while maintaining the objectivity necessary to preserve the public trust. Egon Zehnder is a leading global leadership advisory and executive search firm. Rajeev Vasudeva is its Global CEO; Pallavi Kathuria is its India Managing Partner.


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