Leading through a global crisis

Korn Ferry’s new “CEO for the Future: APAC” paper explores how leaders have been forever changed by one of the world’s most transformative crises. 

By: Guangrong Dai, senior director of research, Korn Ferry Institute

Throughout the decades, companies have had to deal with crises that affected their businesses—the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2009 global recession, Asian tsunamis. The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, is unlike any the modern business world has ever seen. It has drastically changed how companies operate and how employees work.

Although managing through a crisis is not new to leadership, today’s organizations face unprecedented disruptions—ones that occur more often and are more complicated. Leaders can no longer rely on existing tactics, experts say. Instead, they need to be prepared for more shocks, and they must update their playbook as they adapt to the new business reality. “Agile responses to digitization, business sustainability, corporate purpose, climate change, and geopolitical problems will continue to dominate boardroom discussions and shape the profile of the future CEO for years to come,” says Andrew Tsui, chairman of Korn Ferry’s Hong Kong and Southern China offices.

As part of its ongoing CEO for the Future series, the Korn Ferry Institute interviewed more than 70 CEOs from across the APAC region to better understand what this new business reality holds for companies and how leaders can best prepare for the future. In our conversations, we asked CEOs to reflect on their leadership journeys during one of the world’s most formative crises: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the leaders referred to this period as transformative—one that confronted their leadership approach and shattered their business assumptions. And as they responded to this unprecedented challenge, CEOs found themselves adapting how they lead and refreshing how they think. In our new report, “Leading Through a Global Crisis,” we highlight nine takeaways from our interviews that explore how leaders have been forever changed by the pandemic and the lessons they will bring with them into the future.

Download PDF