Readiness vs. Potential: Bridging the Leadership Gap in the Singapore Education Sector | Kerry Consulting
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    Readiness vs. Potential: Bridging the Leadership Gap in the Singapore Education Sector

    Kelly Bowerbank (Chua)

    Education & Training Practice Lead

    According to a report by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in 2022, Singapore has witnessed a significant increase in its senior workforce. Over the past decade, employees aged 55 and above have grown from 27% to 36%, with Education being one of the three sectors experiencing notable growth.

    However, a growing concern looms among C-suites and business owners in the education sector regarding succession planning. Senior leaders have not adequately identified successors who will be ready within the next 5 years – potentially hindering the sector’s ability to meet evolving demands.

    To address this leadership gap, organisations must consider the dilemma of readiness versus potential. Employers face the choice of hiring leaders with extensive experience of industry-specific regulations in Singapore, like the Committee for Private Education (CPE) EduTrust or Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) SPARK framework, or those with the potential to excel but a need for on-the-job learning to become industry-savvy.

    In our Education & Training Practice, we’ve noticed a growing trend where institutions seek diverse perspectives. For example, we appointed a retail professional as the CEO of a sizable Enrichment organisation, leveraging their extensive retail management experience.

    We also placed a General Manager from an Early Childhood provider with experience partnering closely with government regulators. Similarly, we facilitated the transition of an Admissions Director from an Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) to a Private Education Institute (PEI), capitalising on their expertise in student admissions. A personalised headhunting approach is crucial, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

    What Leadership Qualities are Education Institutions Looking For?

    In the distinctive landscape of the education sector, marked by complex stakeholder relationships, resource constraints, and governmental regulations, the quest for leaders who can enhance student outcomes and boost enrolments remains a common goal. However, certain leadership qualities take precedence during the talent search.

    1. Empathy

    Empathy and the ability to connect with stakeholders are of utmost importance, for leaders to positively influence academic, business, and people agendas. These stakeholders are critical in elevating academic rigour and ensuring corporate governance.

    2. Entrepreneurial Mindset

    An entrepreneurial mindset is increasingly valued, especially within universities, as they adapt to refocused government funding and shifting enrolment trends. Visionary leaders must explore innovative ways to enhance enrolment figures or raise funds. For instance, in Singapore, the establishment of Continuous Education (or Lifelong Learning) divisions in universities necessitates alternative approaches to foster growth.

    3. Balancing Strategy & Execution

    Lastly, education leaders must be able to balance strategic oversight with hands-on execution. This balance empowers institutions to swiftly adapt to evolving technologies and industry trends, ultimately excelling in lean operations and self-sustainability.

    Undoubtedly, selecting high-potential leaders isn’t a universal strategy for every employer. Success hinges on timing – it works best when there is a sufficient runway for the leader to adapt and learn. It would not be advisable amid a crisis or major changes. Moreover, the presence of a strong and dependable pool of subject-matter experts within the organisation is indispensable, accelerating the leader’s learning curve.


    To effectively bridge the leadership gap and strengthen bench strength in the education sector, it is paramount for organizations to attract visionary leaders, whether they are industry veterans or high-potential candidates. A personalized approach and strategic headhunting can secure the necessary talent to navigate challenges and achieve strategic goals.

    If you would like to learn more about the Education & Training talent landscape, we are here to assist. Reach out today to Kelly Bowerbank (Chua), Education Practice Lead, to set up a consultation.