[May 2019] Developing future Thai leaders

By Amanda Oldridge, Human Resources Director at Linfox International Group

One of the on going challenges in multinational organisations is to develop local leadership within Asia. This  article will discuss ways in which top talent can be developed for future leadership roles within the Kingdom of Thailand and the frameworks companies can put in place to achieve  success with this critical goal.

It has been found within Asia that there is a clear under representation of Asian leaders in multinational companies, with succession plans highlighting the lack of local successors. Although we are seeing some presence from some Asian nationalities of leadership (e.g China, India and Singapore)  there are decided shortages in the number of Thai leaders seen in multinational organsiations based in the region and Thailand itself. In Thai companies there are strong and effective local leaders and hence for multinationals there is a lost competitive and economic advantage which must be reversed.

Culture and habit are extremely powerful within one’s personality and although many consultants like to inform companies of how they are going to change an employees and teams behavior through numerous stages of classroom lecture, discussion and reflection, this type of learning is merely the beginning of the journey of change. One will only change when the individual actually understands of why they should change. Thai culture has a strong influence upon what is accepted by Thai followers as well as whether Thai’s even wish to be seen or become a leader. Previously research believed that Thai’s were passive and high in the level of acceptance of power from a leader, that it was expected that the leader would protect the team and that the leader would spend large amounts of time in communicating with the team.  Although this is what Thai employees will accept and expect it has also been found that Thai employees want their leader to have a long-term view about strategic planning as well as being focused upon goal setting and organised output. This means that although the Thai leader respects his culture of being collective, conservative, inclusive and extremely accepting there is also the desire to be strategic and output oriented.

Following, are some suggestions that can help in the establishment of developing those that wish to lead, within Thailand. Of course, this type of leadership development can be used for all future leaders from all cultures and sets a framework for future leadership success.

1: Developing a local leadership strategy

  • It is suggested to first identify what makes a good leader in Thailand. This might be to determine the competencies of good leadership such as being comfortable with ambiguity and complexity, continuously curious, innovative, able to think outside the box, holding a high value in integrity and what is fair.
  • Identify a small team of one’s most senior local talent to be mentored by regional management. Identify business critical roles and career paths that are linked to this particuarl talent pool.
  • Concurrently identify an early career top talent number of individuals who are to be developed by Country Thai management.

2: Relentlessly source for local talent being willing to pay for talent when one finds talent.

3: Reward managers who develop local talent within the country.

4: Rigorously and seriously invest in the development of one’s local top talent and

5: Develop a culture that concentrates upon top talent, succession planning and seriously placing top talent into critical leadership roles. This means that the organisation has performance management accountability with its management and recognizes what good talent looks like and where pay for performance is highlighted.

Activities to develop this culture includes

  • Create quaterly reviews of local talent to determine the progress of the development strategy in Thailand.
  • Spend one hour for every regional senior leadership meeting discussing targets and findings and hold quarterly talent reviews.
  • Design a local remuneration stategy that focusses on benchmarks for specific employees and roles within the organisation aligning with job grading against the pool itself.

Once the framework is put in place and senior management work together to manage the framework it is important to then identify who has the potential to be a leader.

1:Who wants to be led by you?

Most employees believe that to be successful one must be a manager of people however it is critical to recognize that not all people should or want to be a leader. Therefore the  most important issue is to first find someone who wishes to lead; has the ability and charisma to lead others; to take responsibility for the success or not of their organisation or function, recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses and the way they work with others so that both leader and follower has a clear line of sight of what needs to be achieved.

2:Know Thyself

Being aware of one’s own talents as well as what happens to oneself in times of stress and challenge provides the individual with the ability to empathise with others helping to build better teams that involves trust and involvement. This can be achieved through psychometric assessments, 360-degree feedback and regular constructive feedback sessions from one’s manager

3: Training and On the Job Training

Classroom training builds awareness and understanding of a subject but does not always mean that the future leader will take on the attributes of what makes a great leader immediately after the training session. Hence, it is extremely critical for future leaders to be provided with many opportunities to lead. Placing them into the seat of power to run a project or function as part of a job rotation or to solve a critical problem is extremely helpful. This can be in the form of graduate rotation programs, cadetships as well as more senior rotational programs.

4:Assessment Centres

Creating an Assessment Centres for local talent to be given opportunitties to experience different challenges and problems can provide real time opportunities for them to develop.

It is critical for multinational organisations within Thailand to recognize the importance of growing one’s local talent to become future leaders. This is not only due to the fact that importing foreigners is highly expensive as well as the reason that Thai leaders gain better output from local teams, recognizing cultural differences and also attracting more top talent local employees However, for this to be successful senior leadership must be serious in the way that it focusses upon this group and recognize that training programs are only the starting point to developing effective future leaders.


House, R., Hangas, P., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. & Gupta, V. (Eds.) (2004). Culture, Leadership and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage pub.
Dubrin, A, J., (2016), Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills, Cengage, USA, Eighth Edition
Hofstede, G,(2001), Culture’s consequences, comparing values, behaviours, institutions and organizations across the nations., McGraw Hill,
Pimpa, N., Moore, T., (2012), Leadership styles: A study of Australian and Thai Public sectors, Asian Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 17, No. 2, 21–37


Amanda has worked in Asia, Australia, the US and Europe. With over 20 years of living in Asia she is highly valued in her understanding of cultural differences in the region. Additionally, her strategic abilities within organisational development, talent management and human resources enables her to provide sound advice to her key stakeholders and a point of view in assisting her management to reach their business objectives.
She has experience within HR consulting, as an HR Business Partner, Global head of Organization Development and hands on transition management throughout Asia. Originally working in a commercial role Amanda uses her business experience to help others navigate organisations and guide her leaders to provide great People solutions .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s