What will the CEO of the future look like?
Today's leaders are at the helm of a world that is fundamentally changing. Climate change, technological disruption, growing wealth inequality, an ageing population, polarisation and declining confidence in our institutions - these are changes that will radically alter the way millions of people live and work, in Belgium and worldwide.
But they will also have an impact on the business leaders of tomorrow.
How will today’s CEO evolve in ten years? What are the most important leadership characteristics for the future? Will the CEO of the future be people-focused or rather a leader who mainly concentrates on the figures?
In partnership with Roularta, we asked 135 CEOs in Belgium the same questions and this is what we found.
As the urgency and necessity grows to make the economy more sustainable, this will increasingly influence the strategic decisions business leaders make, while taking into account the interests of all stakeholders. The survey reveals that a different way of doing business is slowly becoming a reality. In the future, a company's vision and purpose will be determined precisely by their response to the major challenges that are shaping our future, such as climate change and the transition to a digital society.
There’s increased impetus for businesses - and CEOs - to address environment, social and good governance issues (ESG). And CEOs are increasingly being asked to take the lead in finding solutions for the future.
Technology and digitisation is today acknowledged by 70% of CEOs as one of the most important external factors to consider today. It will remain so in the next ten years, along with cyber security.
Digitalisation, technology and cyber security are thus top-of-mind for CEOs, today and tomorrow. This is not surprising, as digital technologies are creating new challenges around data ownership, privacy, ethical issues and trust. We are facing a major technological revolution, affecting all aspects of society. CEOs must play their part in this, to manage the risks associated with the transition to a digital society and ensure cyber security. Only then can trust in a digital society be sustained.
Integrity will always be a key leadership skill for CEOs - especially today. It is about building and maintaining trust with key stakeholders - customers, employees, suppliers and society at large. This is especially true in a world where hyper-transparency is required from business leaders. At the same time, we are going through a period of rapid change. Business leaders who want to manage change must therefore put integrity first; if not, they risk losing trust. At the same time, strategic vision will be indispensable to prepare organisations for the great challenges of the future.
The preferred leadership style for CEOs will not evolve significantly. People still have a strong need for inspiring leadership, today and tomorrow. This should not come as a surprise. Employees, but also the outside world, look to CEOs to drive change and provide solutions for the challenges of the future. They expect direction and decisiveness. The increasing focus on people will also increase. It will remain key for CEOs to leave room for their people to think and act autonomously. The CEO of the future will be one who succeeds in facilitating and empowering people to help drive change.