In the Throes of the Pandemic, CEOs are Shifting their Leadership Styles to Focus on Authenticity, Self-Awareness and Leading with Purpose


Amid a global pandemic, a new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) report identifies a sea change in the mindset of CEOs. Their focus is shifting beyond revenue generation to leading dynamic and diverse communities and creating long-term value for not just their companies, but for the world around them.

For the CEO of the Future report, Korn Ferry experts had in-depth conversations with 105 board directors, many of whom are current CEOs themselves. Nearly all (86 percent) of participants say the lines between business and society are blurring.

“What differentiates the best CEOs today includes being radically human, showing empathy, humility, vulnerability and self-awareness,” said Tierney Remick, Korn Ferry Vice Chair, Board and CEO Services. “The CEOs of the future view disruption as an opportunity for transformation and reinvention, balancing short- and long-term objectives in light of the different interests among stakeholder groups, including employees, citizens, customers and shareholders.”

The report finds that CEOs are becoming more visible and while it was once uncommon, they are increasingly taking stands on societal issues, especially those that impact and have meaning for employees and customers.

“Balancing stakeholder priorities in one of the key reasons the CEO role is changing. It requires an ability to weigh potentially competing needs as equal and important,” said Remick. “Focusing on company value creation does not have to compete with greater societal issues such as diversity, the environment and the health and safety of employees and constituents.”

The shift has not been easy for all leaders. Thirty percent of the CEOs expect balancing different stakeholder groups to be a challenge, while 14 percent expect increased pressure on communication with multiple constituencies, including employees, investors, and customers, among others.

“We are living in a ‘new normal’ atmosphere where CEOs are not only elevating their game out of necessity and the drive to survive – they are striving to be leaders who can disrupt and be a positive force for the common good,” said Remick. 

About the CEO of the Future report

Korn Ferry had conversations with Board and CEO leaders, including 77 men and 28 women, 94 white people and 11 people of color; all serve as directors, and 88 are currently CEO, chair, or both. The participants represented a total of 311 companies, with a median annual revenue of $6.7 billion. The companies represented 11 different industries; 54 percent are public and 46 percent are private.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with clients to design their organizational structures, roles and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward, develop and motivate their workforce. And, we help professionals navigate and advance their careers.


Tracy Kurschner


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