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The New Rules of Leadership: 5 Forces Shaping Expectations of CEOs



This article is published in collaboration with Visual Capitalist

by Katie Jone


It’s common knowledge that CEOs assume a long list of roles and responsibilities.


But in today’s world, more and more people rely on them to go beyond their day-to-day responsibilities and advocate for broader social change. In fact, a number of external forces are changing how leaders are now expected to behave.


How can leaders juggle these evolving expectations while successfully leading their companies into the future?


The New Rules of Leadership


This infographic from bestselling author Vince Molinaro explores five drivers reshaping our world that leaders must pay attention to in order to bring about real change.


How is the World Being Reshaped?


Leaders need to constantly stay one step ahead of the transformative forces that impact businesses on a broader scale.


Below we outline five key drivers that are changing what it means to be a leader in today’s world:


1. Transformative Technologies


Over the last number of decades, several technologies have emerged that could either accelerate the disruption of companies, or provide them with new opportunities for growth. According to KPMG, 72% of CEOs believe the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the previous 50 years.


For example, artificial intelligence (AI), can now provide companies with insights into what motivates their employees and how they can help them succeed. IBM’s AI predictive attrition program can even predict when employees are about to quit—saving them roughly $300 million in retention costs.


Leaders must accept that the future will be mediated by technology, and how they respond could determine whether or not their organization survives entirely.


2. Geopolitical Instability


Geopolitical risks—such as trade disputes or civil unrest—can have a catastrophic impact on a business’s bottom line, no matter its industry. Although 52% of CEOs believe the geopolitical landscape is having a significant impact on their companies, only a small portion say they have taken active steps to address these risks.


By being more sensitive to the world around them, leaders can anticipate and potentially mitigate these risks. Extensive research into geopolitical trends and leveraging the appropriate experts could support a geopolitical risk strategy, and alleviate some of the potential repercussions.


3. Revolutionizing the Working Environment


As the future of work looms, leaders are being presented with the opportunity to reimagine the inner workings of their company. But right now, they are fighting against a wide spectrum of predictions around what they should expect, with estimations surrounding the automation risk of jobs ranging from 5% to 61% as a prime example.


While physical, repetitive, or basic cognitive tasks carry a higher risk of automation, the critical work that remains will require human interaction, creativity, and judgment.


Leaders should avoid getting caught up in the hype regarding the future of work, and simply focus on helping their employees navigate the next decade.


By creating an inspiring work environment and investing in retraining and reskilling, leaders can nurture employee well-being and create a sense of connectedness and resilience in the workplace.


4. Delivering Diversity


Diversity and inclusion can serve as a path to engaging employees, and leaders are being asked to step up and deliver like never before. A staggering 77% of people feel that CEOs are responsible for leading change on important social issues like racial inequality.


But while delivering diversity, equity, and inclusion seems to be growing in importance, many companies are struggling to understand the weight of this issue.


An example of this is Noah’s Ark Paradox, which describes the belief that hiring “two of every kind” creates a diverse work environment. In reality, this creates a false sense of inclusion because the voices of these people may never actually be heard.


Modern day leaders must create a place of belonging where everyone—regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, or age—is listened to.


5. Repurposing Corporations


The drivers listed above ladder up to the fact that society is looking to businesses to help solve important issues, and leaders are the ones being held accountable.


With 84% of people expecting CEOs to inform conversations and policy debates on one or more pressing issues, from job automation to the impact of globalization, CEOs have the potential to transform their organization by galvanizing employees on the topics that matter to them.


For a long time, the purpose of corporations was purely to create value for shareholders. Now, leaders are obligated to follow a set of five commitments:


1. Deliver value to customers


2. Invest in employees


3. Deal fairly and ethically with suppliers


4. Support communities


5. Generate long-term value for shareholders


Ultimately, these five commitments build currency for trust, which is critical for sustained growth and building a productive and satisfied workforce.


Lead the Future


If leaders understand the context they operate in, they can identify opportunities that could fuel their organization’s growth, or alternatively, help them pivot in the face of impending threats.


But organizations must invest in the development of their leaders so that they can see the bigger picture—and many are failing to do so.


By recognizing the new rules of leadership, CEOs and managers can successfully lead their organizations, and the world, into a new and uncertain future.


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