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We are pleased to introduce you to Malcolm Duncan, Director of the Insight Group in Sydney. Insight Group are part of the IRC International Network of Global Executive Search Partners, which Ichor joined in February this year. Malcolm shares with us some of his insights as the past President of the IRC.

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Being Borderless: A Case Study in Unity

By Malcolm Duncan, Director, Insight Group, Sydney

Life can take unexpected twists and turns, and often it’s on those unanticipated journeys that we learn some of our most valuable lessons in leadership.

My own professional life took a very worthwhile deviation recently, as President of IRC Global Executive Search Partners. It was a hugely rewarding and absorbing volunteer role which I relinquished reluctantly at the end of my two-year term earlier this year. I am, however, keeping "Relevance Deprivation Syndrome" at bay with my role as Director of The Insight Group, which is based in Sydney.

I am also taking time to reflect on what I learned at the helm of a truly international organisation, whose success relies on maintaining a broad geographical reach, while creating unity across a very diverse membership.

First, a bit of context

IRC is an international network of global executive search organisations, comprising 45 members from more than 40 countries. These are executive search firms of varying size, such as Ichor, who joined out network earlier this year. IRC was established 20 years ago, and has never been more relevant than it is today, with leadership search becoming increasingly borderless.

IRC provides a central touch-point for executive searches that cross jurisdictions. It sets best practice for its members to ensure there is a shared, and agreed, way of doing business. IRC also supports members with any number of issues needing resolution at a global level.

Listen to learn

Heading up this network taught me a huge amount about culture and context, and about avoiding assumptions. It taught me how good leaders must listen carefully to understand what motivates or concerns the members of their team, as well as to find what binds them as people and practitioners.

Being able to do this, in large part by stepping outside your own life experience to see a different perspective, is key to leading a harmonious and effective organisation – whether it spans the globe or just one office.

In my time at the head of IRC, a raft of issues emerged which were above and beyond what I had previously known as ‘business-as-usual’.

For example, one of our member organisations was from the Ukraine, and faced unimaginable challenges within their daily business. Others were from countries which had been slow to recover from the Global Financial Crisis, or who were facing emerging geo-political issues which affected their people, and their business.

I discovered that in spite of their particular challenges, we all had in common a desire to do a good job for our clients, to treat people well, and to do our profession proud. Shifting political or economic circumstances, I found, do not undermine those commonalities.

Shaping our story

I also had a very real opportunity to listen to our members and pinpoint our shared values, because my Presidency came at a time when IRC was tasked with building its narrative and defining its brand.

This took shape by working with my board colleagues to develop a unique model for finding talented people from all corners of the world. This included determining how our brand looks and feels across all media, right through to how we follow up with candidates, and how we treat colleagues and partners. It’s a narrative we now all share, and which we are all really proud of.

I handed over the mantle to my Dutch colleague, Patrick Westerburger, with a strong sense that we have created a shared understanding and common vision across a broad group of businesses, right around the globe. I take with me a renewed appreciation for what organisations can achieve when they have access to global resources and an international pool of talent.

Most importantly, I have seen the role international bodies can play in connecting different cultures, and how this helps firms such as Ichor, who joined our network earlier this year, and my own, to find extraordinary leaders from around the world.

This is what we can achieve by partnering through a network such as IRC, whose leadership search is, by definition, achieved by being borderless.

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