Are CEOs Unfit for Future Demands

According to a new report by Korn Ferry, The Self Disruptive Leader, the investment community is bearish on today’s leadership. Two thirds believe that private sector CEOs are “unfit” for future demands. The number is even higher in the United States, at 70%.  

According to Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solution leader for leadership development and co-author of the report, “For the last hundred years, leaders have been taught that control, consistency, and closure are the principles of business leadership. But dramatic changes to the global business environment mean that this is no longer sufficient—trust, purpose and energizing others are now central.”

Leading in the way they were taught or accustomed to is not going to work in the future. The system as a whole will need to adapt. Seven in ten respondents stated that the short term pressures faced by executive leadership impedes their ability to focus on innovation, digitization, and change.

Technology will continue to create uncertainty, and the path forward is to embrace disruption, lest it be foisted upon you and you’re left in a more vulnerable reactive position. The ability to take a hard look internally at your systems, culture, process, values, and actions to determine how you can disrupt yourself before someone else disrupts you is what the study calls for, the self disruptive leader.

Per Khoi Tu, Korn Ferry Senior Client Partner, “Companies have a crucial role to play in cultivating leaders of the future. To close the leadership gap, businesses urgently need to revolutionize how they uncover future execs who have what it takes—and accelerate their growth, as well as build a culture that empowers talent at all levels to challenge and innovate.”

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Tu continues, “Investing in and developing those with self-disruptive tendencies throughout the business is critical, but frankly it can rankle senior leaders. ‘Natural’ self-disruptors may be considered impossible rebels by their bosses because they often won’t accept conventional wisdom and constantly agitate for change. This unconventional thinking positions them perfectly for leadership in a disruptive world. But it also can, ironically, block this important talent from advancement.”

Whether you have the self-awareness to address these changes on your existing leadership team or you’re looking to fill openings with candidates who possess the skills required to embrace a constantly shifting landscape, the report provides a framework for successful leaders. ADAPT outlines five qualities including the ability to anticipate, drive, accelerate, partner, and trust.

  • Anticipate: Demonstrate contextual intelligence to make quick judgments and create opportunities; focus on the societal needs that the organization wants to serve; provide a direction to unify collective efforts even among disoriented environments.
  • Drive: Energize people by fostering a sense of purpose; manage the mental and physical energy of themselves and others; nurture a positive environment to keep people hopeful, and optimistic, and intrinsically motivated.
  • Accelerate: Manage the flow of knowledge to produce constant innovation and the desired business outcomes; use agile processes, quick prototyping and iterative approaches to rapidly implement and commercialize ideas.
  • Partner: Connect and form partnerships across increasingly permeable functional and organizational boundaries; enable the exchange of ideas; combine complementary capabilities to enable high performance.
  • Trust: Form a new relationship between the organization and the individual that centers on mutual growth; integrate diverse perspectives and values; help individuals to uncover their sense of purpose and facilitate them in providing their maximum contribution.

Developing self-disruptive leaders is a fundamental shift for most organizations. It requires the ability to recognize potential and embrace a style different from your own instead of looking down from an ivory tower assuming you know best.  As the report states, “A majority of leaders can’t make decisions and take smart actions quickly enough, motivate people effectively, or build trust — all of which is needed to ensure their organization’s survival into the future.”

For our take on the report, please send us a note. Our executive recruiting philosophy is rooted in culture and innovation. Our executive recruiters will work with you to develop your existing leadership team as well as identify candidates that meet the ADAPT criteria and also fit your organization.