An Evolving World Needs Evolving Leadership

Businesses are operating in a period of unparalleled transformation pressure. Pre-existing forces for change, such as digitalization, sustainability, diversity, and inclusion, are more crucial than ever as the covid epidemic continues to pose tremendous hurdles for demand forecasting, operations, and supply chains. Simply said, businesses must reconsider who they are, what they do, and how they operate.

As a result, boards of directors around the world have begun to examine their leadership structures with fresh eyes, with the top roles being the first to be scrutinised. In reality, in order to deal with the growing demands and the need of change, the number of CEO nominations reached a new high in 2021. Consider Amazon’s transfer from Jeff Bezos to Andy Jassy in the wake of rising criticism of Bezos’ leadership style, or McKinsey’s leadership change in the wake of Kevin Sneader’s inability to deal with a number of controversies involving the firm’s former client work.

Consider Benedetto Vigna’s appointment at Ferrari, a semiconductor executive overseeing one of the world’s most prestigious luxury and sports vehicle brands, or Leena Nair’s appointment at Chanel, a former Chief Human Resources Officer at packaged food giant Unilever. These are just a few examples of how boards are approaching top appointments with fresh eyes, rather than settling for the obvious or more of the same. Leaders at the top must also adapt substantially as firms do.

From the outside, it’s impossible to overlook that something fresh is taking place at these meetings. While some organisations may be taking a hazardous chance, you can’t help but question whether some are being more visionary than others. For better or worse, it begs the question of what future leaders will need to look like in order to successfully lead organisations through the significant upheaval that many will confront in the coming years. What do CEO profiles need to look like to be ready for the challenges ahead?

How will we define results in the future?

No one can deny that future CEOs will need to be successful leaders who have a track record of delivering results. Will that, however, be the winner or merely a qualifier for the job? And how will we define results in the future? Do we require more executives with radically different views, perspectives, and competencies to shake up boardrooms? Perhaps those who used to be on the peripheral but are now at the centre of future thinking?
The future seldom resembles the past.

We contend that future winning leaders will require 360-degree skills. These abilities include the following:
The potential to be a change symbol — CEOs are significant symbols to internal and external stakeholders during times of turbulence and transition. CEOs must now, more than ever, lead by example and demonstrate the reforms they seek to implement.

Ability to have a positive society impact – No company can last much longer if it does not have a positive societal impact in addition to its financial results. Companies that overlook the societal consequences of their conduct are no longer tolerated by the public. CEOs must reimagine their companies such that societal and financial consequences complement rather than compete.

Instead of relying on wild cowboys, the capacity to tap into the organization’s collective wisdom. A CEO who must go beyond short-term financial rewards cannot afford to have sole executive team members who move quickly and break things. Instead, CEOs must increasingly be aware of their organization’s collective wisdom. Ability to lead increasingly diverse teams — A CEO who is afraid of actual diversity and searches for excuses not to develop it is an out-of-date CEO. Turning diversity into value takes time and work, but the value diversity generates far outweighs the effort.

The capacity to coach and assist the team rather than knowing everything – the new difficulties that businesses confront necessitate CEOs who can delegate and coach. According to Steve Jobs, he hired individuals to tell him what to do. Far too many CEOs and other leaders continue to tell their employees what to do and insist on having a role in every decision. Such leaders, who are no longer capable of leading new generations and their organisations into the future, must be removed from boards.

The ability to become the learner-in-chief — in order to stay ahead of change and build an adaptive organisation, CEOs must take on the role of learner-in-chief, demonstrating humility and curiosity in order to engage the future.

The ability to work in a hybrid or remote setting. One of the numerous lessons that Covid has taught us is indisputable. Solid organisations may run and perform well regardless of where their personnel are located if they have good business processes and systems in place. This necessitates leaders who are at ease in both remote and in-office settings and can navigate them effectively.

The ability to take a step back and see when one’s own life expectancy is approaching. Even the best CEO cannot continue to add value indefinitely. Recognizing when others are in a better position to lead will be a crucial ability.

Final Thoughts

Candidates with the qualities required for the future are still hard to come by. And, as some recent appointments indicate, boards may need to seek outside the box to find them. Boards must determine whether they will dare to make the big decisions required to prepare their organisations for the future, or if they will continue in the same old way, slowly deteriorating the organization’s position until it is saved before it is too late.