The heads of many CEOs are spinning – the lingering effect of ‘all the crazy’ that has reared its head since the pandemic hit. It’s been a tough time: one that has forced leaders to react quickly like never before – to adapt at every turn, to navigate economic uncertainty, and to adopt new leadership strategies to ensure their organisations – and their people – have thrived amid tumultuous change.
But how are they faring now? Egon Zehnder’s recently released study, ‘It starts with the CEO’, offers some fascinating insights. It draws upon the sentiments of almost 1000 CEOs from around the world and tells us a lot about the changing role and mindset of leaders in this generation-defining moment.
For starters, in the face of complex and rapid change, CEOs are slowing down and considering how to do things differently. Many of the surveyed leaders found the upheaval of the pandemic to be a catalyst for positive change, which has inspired them to focus more on their own learning. CEOs across-the-board agree that they need to transform themselves as well as their business, with almost 80 per cent strongly agreeing on the importance of the ‘dual journey’ of personal and organisational change. This is a huge jump from the 26 per cent who strongly agreed with this idea only a few years ago. CEOs are increasingly looking inwards, uncovering their ‘blind spots’ so they can lead their teams more effectively. (Incredibly, 45 per cent of respondents cited ‘not listening’ as their main blind spot and 500 CEOs admitted to having a ‘relational deficit’!)
The Zehnder study also explores the awkward situation many CEOs find themselves in where they’re caught between the demand of boards and stakeholders wanting to drive profits, and public expectation that they should be making a social and environmental contribution to the world.
A key conundrum for leaders now lies in knowing how to define their organisation’s purpose: are they all about money, or do they serve the greater good as well? Balancing these conflicting expectations and getting everyone in agreement is an ongoing battle. According to the study, just 44 per cent of CEOs are fully aligned with their teams, and even fewer said the same about their boards. Yet even as CEOs increasingly recognise the importance of creating ‘prosperity for the many’, financial performance is still the top metric that guides their decisions.
So, what has the pandemic taught your CEOs? They know that they need to be more adaptive, relational and self-aware, so they’re better equipped to embrace opportunities and tackle new challenges going forward. They know they need to listen more. They know they need to self-reflect and seek feedback from all kinds of different sources. They know that to steer an adaptive organisation, they must commit themselves to a journey of ongoing learning and personal growth. More than ever, they know that far-reaching change begins with them.
– The Coach Place Global
Image by @bchild311
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