ASIA MAY BE THE world's largest human capital market but it is also the place where companies are struggling to develop talent with the essential leadership skills to drive success in the future. Effective leadership remains one of the key factors in a company's long-term success. Simon Keeley, head of Hewitt Associates Asia Leadership Centre in Shanghai, said leaders had an underlying impact on organisational culture and employee engagement levels, which in turn were fundamental in achieving company goals. Mr Keeley said how well an organisation developed and managed its leaders could provide a significant advantage over its competitors. However, leadership remained one of the most talked about and little understood topics in the corporate world. The primary reason was the lack of understanding that leadership development was a continuous process. Consequently, leadership development programmes were rarely successful. Mr Keeley said it required top management commitment to identify and train potential leaders. 'Without decisive ongoing programmes, employees attending short courses enjoy a feel-good factor for a few weeks but most of the positive benefits soon wear off.' He suggests that companies put in place long-term leader identification and training strategies that align with the organisation's goals. 'In any company there are people that with the right training and motivation could become good leaders. An organisation that has a good leadership development programme will have a rough idea who these people are,' Mr Keeley said. Companies that do this well operate well-designed talent identification processes and utilise a 'skills database' to track employee talents. Manulife International is one company that realises leadership development is an ongoing commitment. Hewitt Associates works with Manulife to identify and train leaders. Noting that not everyone had the ability to become a top boss or the ambition to climb up the corporate ladder, Mr Keeley said leadership qualities could be defined in many ways. With the right training, those with less ambition or capabilities could still be excellent leaders in the positions they held.