Boards, Reimagined

A new Korn Ferry Institute report reveals the emerging trends among CEOs and their boards.

For decades, organizations and their leaders have fielded challenge after challenge, disruption after disruption, that have continually transformed the way they do business. But the past 18 months have been a particular test of strategy and agility, as the global pandemic shoved companies, as well as entire industries, straight into the unknown.

As with the pandemic, companies in the future will face multiple crises simultaneously—from economic and political to social and environmental—that will pressure test what’s working and reveal what’s undermining success. At the same time, investors, employees, and consumers will continue to expect business leaders take a stronger role in society, contributing beyond shareholder return. “The world around the CEO is changing, and these changes will only accelerate in the future, becoming more dynamic and unpredictable,” says Nels Olson, Vice Chair of Korn Ferry’s Board & CEO Services. “This has significantly increased the demands on the CEO role, which has now become too big for one person to handle.” 

CEOs in the future will look to their boards as critical thought partners in connecting purpose, productivity, and impact to extend their reach beyond the business. But for their organizations to survive and thrive, working with diverse and vibrant communities—not just companies—will be key to building the competitive, interdependent landscape necessary to success.

CEOs and their boards will be at the heart of this dynamic. “The partnership between CEOs and boards and the wider partnership with internal and external stakeholders has emerged as a key differentiator for companies,” says Anthony Goodman, Head of Korn Ferry’s Board Effectiveness practice.

As part of its CEOs for the Future series, the Korn Ferry Institute took a deep dive into the trends emerging among CEOs and their boards as they step into the future side by side. Korn Ferry interviewed more than 100 CEOs and directors in North America and learned about what they will need to work together differently in the coming years. These experts told Korn Ferry that CEOs and their boards will need to expand their thinking in a way that transforms how they work together for the benefit of all.

In the future the paper reveals, boards will need to lean in further to better understand both the business and the talent of an organization to achieve objectives in the midst of change. “The most effective, resilient organizations will have proactive CEOs and boards that work very much in concert with one another to weather the inevitable storms ahead, and emerge even stronger,” says Tierney Remick, Vice Chairman and Co-leader of Korn Ferry’s Board & CEO Services.

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