Kate Wilson explores the key attributes of the CEO of the future

It’s been an awful year and the achievements of the chief executives who we celebrate today are truly remarkable. We find ourselves in a world in which the disruptive challenges we face have never been so constant, relentless and global. What can we learn about chief executive leadership in these disruptive times? We draw on our CEO for the future research to explore.

It’s all about people

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As covid-19 has shown us CEOs are operating in an increasingly networked system where decisions are localised and they have both more and less control than ever. The CEO of the future needs to lead with their humanity and emotional intelligence, navigating paradoxes and contradictions, and balancing stakeholder needs in a role that is more visible than ever. All of this requires courage, intelligence, grace, authenticity and self-awareness. It requires the qualities that come with emotional intelligence: openness, vulnerability and collaboration. In other words, CEOs need to be very grounded in their own humanity. NHS CEOs have shown this humanity in spades in the face of intense and unrelenting pressure this year.

It’s about leading eco-systems

The future CEO needs to think beyond the success of the organisation and consider how they help build a healthy eco-system in which their organisation can thrive. CEOs are increasingly leading dynamic and diverse communities, not just organisations. This has been a stronger and stronger theme in the HSJ awards as the best CEOs have started to move beyond partnership to think about the broader role they play. This year has seen NHS CEOs putting every sinew into the service of their communities.

It’s all about the team

The age of heroic leadership is long dead but truly unlocking the collective intelligence of teams is tough and many executive teams struggle to act as a true enterprise team. It always stands out in the top CEOs round table event that these leaders build powerful teams around them. However, the kind of group dynamic that once defined very few outstanding CEOs and their teams is now a necessary foundation for success; it’s table stakes.

You need to perform and transform

Finally, the CEO of the future will need a mindset that sees disruption as an opportunity for transformation and re-invention. CEOs who have the greatest impact are those that are able to manage performance for today and transform for tomorrow. Our research shows that leaders that can do both are higher performing and create faster growing companies. NHS CEOs’ achievements in the face of covid-19 have been immense and they have shown incredible institutional agility and creativity. Despite the challenges this year has brought I’m sure the chief executive round table will be as inspiring as ever. It will be a privilege to hear about how these impressive leaders are not only leading in the context of huge challenges of today, but looking ahead to the transformation they will engender in the future.

Find out more

Korn Ferry engaged with over 100 board directors and CEOs to explore the changing role of CEO. Click here for more information


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