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The uncertainty and volatility of the past year has disrupted all of us globally, but perhaps no role has been more affected than that of the CEO. Shaken from its traditional pedestal, the CEO role can no longer rule as a monolith or with the simple mandate of appeasing shareholders.

Today, CEOs must answer to a wider range of stakeholders, address social and community issues that were previously taboo, and elevate the role of talent around them so they operate as part of a leadership ecosystem.

We spoke with 105 board directors, many of whom are also CEOs, from 311 companies to discuss their predictions for what the future holds for companies, the markets where they operate, and the stakeholders they serve. We also asked them to explain how the CEO, the executive team, and the board should anticipate and approach disruption.

Here’s a synopsis of what we learned:

  • The distinguishing characteristics of leading CEOs are now table stakes; to excel, CEOs must be radically human, focusing on leading with authenticity, humanity, and heart.
  • CEOs must believe that disruption affords an unparalleled opportunity for transformation and reinvention.
  • CEOs must be prepared to lead not only their business but also to serve as societal leaders, using their voice to advocate for policies on critical issues such as health, safety, and education that benefit all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and shareholders.
  • The most effective CEOs will define and inspire a sense of purpose and direction that unleashes the enterprise’s collective energy and maximizes its impact, both for the business and for its community.
  • CEOs must be part of a leadership ecosystem with an executive team that consists of enterprise leaders with a multidisciplinary point of view and a board that serves as a thought partner and problem solver.

Our summary paper, “CEOs for the Future, When the Future Is Now,” describes how the highest-performing CEOs will transform their mindset so they can lead their companies through the gray to the next new normal.

Download this paper now to find out what challenges leading CEOs anticipate and the key differentiators in CEOs that will inspire greater performance.

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