CEO's Dilemma: Navigating the Complex Seas of Leadership

The role of a CEO today is no walk in the park. It demands a touch of the superhuman. To succeed, he or she must juggle an array of challenges – delivering growth, driving innovation, managing geopolitical risks, integrating technology, and navigating the complex landscape of employees, shareholders, and countless other hurdles. The question then becomes: How and what should the CEO prioritize in this intricate balancing act? Our extensive research, spanning diverse industries and geographies, has provided insights into what we believe is crucial for driving sustainable, purpose-driven growth. We recommend CEOs focus their efforts on three distinct priorities.

1. Instil Purpose:

While every company has a mission statement, it often remains confined to the corporate website and annual reports. The standout companies go a step beyond. They actively discuss the company's purpose and integrate this ideology into their business processes. The exceptional ones take it even further. Companies like Unilever empower employees to develop and define their own purpose metrics through discovery workshops. Employees then create plans to align their individual purpose with the overarching purpose of the company. Unilever supports these journeys, even if it means some employees choose to leave the company. The impact has been remarkable. A staggering 92 percent of Unilever employees who attended a discover-your-purpose workshop reported having jobs that inspire them to go the extra mile, compared to 33% who did not attend. Having a team inspired to share in the journey toward a higher purpose is irreplaceable.

2. Master Technology:

In the last five decades, technology innovation has surged at an exponential pace. A few years ago, CEOs started proclaiming aspirations to be technology companies delivering services rather than traditional entities leveraging technology. In November 2022, Generative AI was launched, further accelerating the pace and impact of new technology on businesses. It's no longer sufficient to use technology solely for task automation; it has become imperative to leverage technology to innovate the very business model. Technology spending, currently averaging around 5 percent of a company’s revenue, is projected to grow to 10 percent over the next decade. Thus, it's imperative for CEOs to master how technology can differentiate, scale, and outpace the competition.

3. Orchestrate Experiences:

The relentless pace of globalization and intense competition has blurred any sustained differences companies can offer in their products or services. The value no longer solely resides in the features or functionality; it lies in how the delivery is orchestrated. This applies not just to customers but to every stakeholder – employees, shareholders, partners, and society at large.

While functional leaders drive various aspects of the business, CEOs must necessarily prioritize these three key elements. This, we believe, will separate the winners from the also-rans in the intricate dance of leadership.