CEO Development

Accelerating CEO impact

Developing leaders who can both transform and perform

The role of a CEO has never been more complex or demanding. Businesses no longer need executive managers; a successful CEO is an Enterprise Leader. Agile, impactful people who create value throughout the entire ecosystem. Radically human leaders who care, who balance the needs of people, profit, and planet. Leaders who can lead across ESG.

These Enterprise CEOs are rare, but they can be developed. Our research-based framework defines them, and our CEO development programs create the mindsets and capabilities to further the purposeful impact of the enterprise. Helping CEOs transform into Enterprise Leaders and impact across their enterprise and beyond.


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Frequently asked questions for CEO Development

What is the ideal CEO profile?

The CEO role is evolving. Today’s organizations need a new type of leader who can run the organization while also transforming it. We call these people Enterprise Leaders. Enterprise CEOs lead horizontally as well as vertically and have an impact on all the company’s stakeholders. They think expansively about the context in which their entire sector is changing and deliver, not just across the enterprise, but across the entire ecosystem.

Grounded in deep science and abundant CEO experience, Korn Ferry has developed a rich, holistic CEO profile to optimize executive development. This framework identifies the four capabilities and five agile mindsets that every successful CEO needs to have today, that every future CEO needs to master, and that every CEO development program should include.

The four capabilities describe the skills that enable a CEO to perform and transform with agility and create new and innovative solutions:

  • Strategic leadership: Being able to scale innovation, anticipate trends, envision possibilities and disrupt the business model
  • Results leadership: Achieving results today and making bold decisions to build for tomorrow
  • People leadership: Organizing and energizing people, teams and resources to get things done
  • Ecosystem leadership: Building and creating capabilities within and across the ecosystem

Agile mindsets encompass the beliefs and assumptions that influence executives’ thoughts and behavior. The five agile mindsets of a successful CEO are:

  • Purpose mindset: The belief that Enterprise CEOs have a responsibility to transcend beyond themselves, applying and growing their gifts to more powerfully give to others, the enterprise and beyond.
  • Courage mindset: CEO’s identify and address enterprise problems and opportunities, even when their opinions are unpopular, fear-provoking, challenging, or outside of their direct control.
  • Awareness of self and others mindset: A CEO’s deep understanding of and continuous learning about themselves and their impact is foundational to maximize their impact across the enterprise.
  • Inclusion mindset: Enterprise CEO can multiply impact through connection and inclusion.
  • Integrative thinking mindset: CEOs must reconcile seemingly disconnected dynamics or paradoxes into new, innovative realities. Enterprise Leadership CEOs go beyond critical thinking to an integrative mindset that sees new complex relationships in a renewed, differentiated way, balancing the interaction of multiple tensions and generating creative resolutions.

Find out more about the Enterprise Leader.

How is the role of the CEO changing?

The role of the CEO is becoming increasingly complex. Once CEOs see the future, the future changes. We see three ever-dynamic challenges facing CEOs today:

1. Transforming the business while maintaining strong organization performance

Successful future CEOs must be able to address two competing and ever-intersecting demands: optimizing near-term performance and transforming the organization for the future. This is easier said than done. Versatility is essential to pivoting between what’s here and now and what’s anticipated five years, five months and even five days from now. A successful CEO will be ready to flex between performing and transforming with agility.

2. Leading the enterprise and the ecosystem

Over 85% of CEOs interviewed for our CEOs for the Future study told us the historical “line” between business and society has been blurred. As a result, CEOs must now be able to respond to multiple stakeholders simultaneously: shareholders, employees, communities and their environment. Managing and leading in a highly interconnected environment requires leaders to understand the business more comprehensively. Realizing that leadership is about “we” instead of “me,” a CEO’s new responsibilities include looking beyond considerations of just their company to the drivers of short- and long-term business success for both the company and its ecosystem.

3. Delivering for people, planet and profit

Many successful CEOs believe that business and society are coming together. Therefore, businesses must achieve twin goals: creating economic value while generating social impact, both internal and external. Successful CEOs realize that the “opposed ideas” of profit and purpose aren’t mutually exclusive and changes must be made to embrace social values. They know they must find a way to release the innovative potential of the business and optimize both economic and social value at the same time. By focusing on the impact of their actions, leaders can harness their organization’s full potential to create value for all stakeholders. They can embody the leadership that serves the "go-across" athleticism needed to live ESG.

Find out more

What makes an effective CEO development program?

Visualize a CEO standing at the intersection of two challenging pyramids. The upward pyramid is composed of customers, the board, stakeholders and the media. The downward pyramid  represents the organization: the executive team, sectors of the business and people who make up the enterprise. New CEOs must quickly learn what it means to reside in this high performing juncture between internal and external constituencies. Becoming the CEO is not a job change, it’s a career change.

No job experience can ever fully prepare a new or emerging CEO for this role, so an effective executive development program that develops crucial CEO skills and mindsets is critical.

The right executive program gives future CEOs the necessary time and space to develop personal, interpersonal, CEO and enterprise leadership effectiveness within an objective, thoughtful and accelerated time frame.

  • Personal leadership: Self-awareness is crucial to successful CEOs because the character, values and strengths of the CEO directly affect the performance of the entire enterprise. Self-aware leaders produce significantly better results in public companies according to our research on hundreds of firms.
  • Team leadership: Senior teams, by their nature, are often the least effective teams. A successful CEO must be able to effectively lead a “team of leaders” so that organizational growth can be sustained. Learning to engage and communicate across internal and external teams/ecosystems is critical.
  • Enterprise leadership: Successful CEOs must learn to transcend divisional and functional points of view to effectively lead the entire enterprise with purpose, vision and inspiration.
  • CEO leadership: CEOs are scrutinized on all sides and must therefore master the critical influencing financial/investors, business strategy and communication skills required to successfully manage multiple constituencies.

Find out more about Korn Ferry’s executive development programs.