Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, outlines five forward-looking skills for the next generation of leaders.

There is no denying that the world of business is evolving at an incredibly fast pace. With the constant launch of new tools and innovative tech, workers are required to embrace a wide range of modern equipment on a regular basis.

As employees continue to up their game, it is only natural that the next generation of leaders will need a set of updated skills too.

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International

Here, with some insights from Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, we take a look at some crucial future requirements that business owners and managers will have to nail to guide their team in an efficient, successful fashion.

1. Technological inclination

In the same way that youngsters jump at the latest technology at the first opportunity, it is important for future leaders to emulate that same drive and curiosity.

The world is becoming increasingly digitalised, and the business sector is no exception. This is why company owners and managers should have a basic understanding of today’s technologies, exploring how modern equipment can actively aid their business. From cloud computing to artificial intelligence and UX development, there are many different tools that can increase your organisation’s chance of success.  

Of course, nobody expects you to be an expert in computing coding or programming. But getting precious digital and tech skills under your belt can provide you with more than one ace up your sleeve.

2. Empathy and emotional intelligence

Just like an experienced, Michelin-star chef, future leaders have to juggle and balance several different aspects to create a perfect menu. Yes, technology will play an essential role in developing and driving your company forward. But software and robots have not yet mastered emotional intelligence, which means they cannot help on the more human side of things.

A business owner or manager should always strive to harness their relationship with colleagues and team members. Empathising, sympathising, supporting, and understanding the necessities of your employees is crucial, as this can inspire confidence and a sense of belonging in your people. If workers feel appreciated and cared for, there is a good chance they will go the extra mile to spur the growth of your business.

Hence, taking an interest in your team’s well-being and nurturing a shared feeling of unity is a fundamental attribute to possess.

3. Openness to diversity

One of the most prominent advantages of modern technology is that it’s abating boundaries and favouring connections with people worldwide. Hence, as time goes by, it is becoming more and more important to collaborate with colleagues from all over the globe. This means that, on a daily basis, you are working with teams from different cultures and who may even speak another language.

Engaging with people from all walks of life and with diverse backgrounds can open the doors to endless opportunities. Not only will you benefit from a vast range of experience, knowledge, and expertise, but you will also learn precious lessons on how to enter and succeed in global markets. Therefore, as the world becomes increasingly connected, future managers need to embrace diversity and make the most of its invaluable benefits.

4. Clarity and communication

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, outlines five forward-looking skills for the next generation of leaders.

Clarity and effective communication are timeless features of strong leadership. Managers need to build bridges between their team members and outline the company’s missions in a concise, transparent manner. In this respect, leadership development training is an excellent place to start when it comes to learning how to deliver messages and strategies that are straight to the point.

Future leaders have to be able to identify the right channels to carry this out in a smooth, effective way. With the many digital platforms at our disposal, it is important to choose one that can keep people on the same page at all times. What’s more, as innovations and possibilities arise, future managers need to communicate the essence of the question at hand in a digestible fashion.

Simplifying a complex situation or task is a crucial skill, and it is one that can aid both your team’s productivity and your business’ efficiency.

5. Foresight and adaptability

As technology evolves, artificial intelligence progresses, and the business sector continues to mutate, future leaders need to be flexible. Business owners and managers have to be ready to adapt and make sure they are not fazed by what the future holds. They should monitor trends and look at how to welcome change with a positive attitude.

How can you prepare for upcoming possibilities? One effective way is to run through various scenarios and start outlining all possible outcomes. What’s more, engaging with new circumstances and journeying out of your comfort zone can be an important learning curve. In fact, it will teach you how to deal with unfamiliar situations. If an unexpected opportunity comes about, you will have both the skills and confidence to respond to them with confidence.

To keep in step with the times, business leaders of the future will need to polish their set of skills. From emotional intelligence and adaptability to clear communication and openness to diversity, there are many aspects that will strengthen your leadership. By showing an interest for new software and technological developments, you can make sure your company is expanding its reach and exploring new, successful paths.  

In EY’s January 2023 European CEO Outlook Survey, it was discovered European CEOs expect short-term challenges but have reason for optimism.

Today’s CEO faces unprecedented challenges like never before and is tasked with navigating choppy waters.

Amid global uncertainty caused by a potential recession and on the back of war in Ukraine and disruption caused by COVID-19, it can feel overwhelming for even the most experienced leaders.

A positive horizon?

Despite this, consulting giants EY has discovered reason for optimism in its January 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse survey which includes 390 responses from CEOs across Europe. While the survey found 98% of respondents are indeed expecting a global recession, the majority of European CEOs (52%) anticipate it to be temporary and not a persistent one. These figures are a greater percentage than CEOs worldwide (48%) who point to more long-term optimism for the global economy among European CEOs.

According to the survey, 47% of European respondents believe this recession will be different from previous slowdowns. The recent crisis is more driven by myriad geopolitical challenges and an ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic compared with previous recessions primarily as a result of financial and credit market factors. Many CEOs are aware of this difference and acknowledge the necessity for new and sustainable approaches that build resilience in uncertain times.

In EY’s last survey in October 2022, ongoing pandemic-related concerns such as supply chain issues were the most important topics. However, since then supply chain pressures have eased to some extent with data from S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showing improvement. Only 32% of European CEOs now cite supply chains as the key issue which is down from 41% in October. Given inflationary pressures and the upward movement in interest rates, European CEOs are increasingly focusing on the policies and steps they believe European governments should take to help businesses mitigate the downturn.

About 35% of European respondents, in comparison to 32% globally, consider uncertain monetary policy and increasing cost of capital as the biggest challenge to growth. With inflation beginning to decline in November 2022 after 17 months of upward trajectory, CEOs are closely following central bank activity for potential course changes.

A strategy change

In response to the current recession, EU policymakers are considering more dovish economic recovery proposals instead of top-down austerity rules seen during the sovereign debt crises a decade ago. This includes rethinking debt rules to help countries navigate this downturn. Alongside this, EU governments now face pressure on how to handle the discontent of people protesting against the rising cost of living crisis and questions still remain on how extensively they will intervene. In particular, governments are reluctant to pursue austerity measures as a result of protests from the crisis 10 years ago. Meanwhile, for CEOs, financing will continue to be a challenge as a result of increased capital costs that are set to persist which disrupted growth plans.

European CEOs have learned from previous financial crises and recognise that it is essential to think of new and sustainable strategies to capitalise on the opportunities.

What is the way forward?

According to EY, there are five directives which are worth exploring over the next few years.

Investing in operations
European CEOs identify investing internally to boost operations as extremely important. Risk isn’t only about extraordinary events; day-to-day operational failures can also lead to losses, regulatory action and reductions in share prices. Operations such as finance, accounting and supply chain have emerged as the top priority area of investment for European CEOs (41%).

Recognising disruption and accelerating digital transformation

Amid ongoing global pressure to embrace new technologies and a digital transformation, COVID-19 further accelerated a trend toward digitalisation. Around 38% of European CEOs (in line with 37% globally) are looking to invest in digital transformation, data and technology to emerge stronger from this downturn.

Developing a strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy

Businesses need to ensure ESG processes are moved to the centre of business strategy. Sustainability, including net zero and other environmental issues, as well as societal priorities, is one of the key areas that European CEOs identify as a need for more investment.

Nurturing talent

Despite the recession, the labour market remains tight in Europe. European CEOs are weighing cost management options, with 37% considering a move to contract employment and 38% planning on reducing learning and development investments. About one third are also considering a restructuring of their workforce compared with global and Americas CEOs (36% and 42%) considering the same approach.

Portfolio transformation

Looking ahead, portfolio rebalancing is expected to be a key theme as CEOs will be compelled to make bold decisions regarding their business portfolio. During a recession, companies must critically assess what their core businesses are, what their focus should be and where they can create value by spinning out or selling non-core assets. Some 93% of European CEOs consider prioritising restructuring opportunities as an important initiative in the next six months.

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy where we highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with ‘the’ leadership role

Our first cover story explores how Vodafone is leveraging strong leadership to drive the collaborations enabling businesses to champion change management and better use technology.

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy!

Tasked with accelerating business growth, while building the synergies across an organisation that can drive innovation to meet diverse customer needs and keep revenues on track, the modern CEO must be mentor, marshall and motivator on the journey to success.

Read the launch issue here!

Leadership with purpose at Vodafone

“Leadership is purpose, it’s why do you do the things you do…”

Our cover story throws the spotlight on Vodafone US CEO David Joosten; also Director for Americas & Partners Markets at Vodafone Business, he talks to CEOstrategy about leading from the front and setting the standards to deliver growth while keeping employees and customers happy.

“People follow leaders that are honest about themselves. If you can reflect on what you’ve done well, but also where you need to improve it can inspire others to do the same.”

EMCS Industries Ltd: How a CEO can navigate change management

“Why hire talent and then tell them what do? You have so much to learn from the great people you hire. Micromanaging is not management, and it’s certainly not leadership. Let your people thrive!”

Read our interview with EMCS Industries Ltd CEO Trevor Tasker for more thought-provoking insights on leadership from the shifting tides of the marine industry in this maiden issue.

How to be an authentic leader

“At the most basic human level, everyone knows what it’s like to feel heard by another person, and how that changes our behaviour. It can help anger and sadness subside and enable us to start seeing things differently. So, when employees are being listened to by their leaders, it can only help how an organisation operates.”

Dr Andrew White, director of the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and host of the Leadership 2050 podcast series, explores transformative approaches to leadership for the modern CEO.

How can CEOs drive forward culture change around diversity and inclusion?

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, explores the changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“Disability is still often parked in the “too difficult” box when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Employers are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and as a result, do or say nothing. As a CEO, the stakes feel (and often are) higher. That high profile platform can feel daunting at the best of times; when tackling an unfamiliar topic, it can feel positively overwhelming. But what we do and say as senior leaders has a huge impact. Indeed, it is critical in driving change.”

Also in this launch issue, we get the lowdown on agile ways of working from Kubair Shirazee, CEO of Agile transformation specialists Agilitea. Elsewhere, we speak with Nirav Patel, CEO of the consultancy firm, Bristlecone – a subsidiary of Mahindra Group and a leading provider of AI powered application transformation services for the connected supply chain – who discusses the challenges facing CPOs and supply chain leaders in our uncertain times. And we analyse the latest insights for CEOs from McKinsey and Gartner.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor