Leadership in 2020 is changing, one CEO at a time. In The CEO moment: Leadership for a new era, McKinsey & Company partners Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, Kevin Sneader and Kurt Strovink outline four ways in which CEOs are transforming the way they lead.
These changes, catapulted by the global pandemic, include harnessing the full power of their CEO peer networks, unlocking bolder aspirations, fully embracing stakeholder capitalism, and elevating their “to be” list to the same level as their “to do” list. Here is a brief summary of each leadership shift.
1. CEOs are harnessing the full power of their CEO peer networks.
McKinsey notes that this is one of the most remarkable changes among CEOs: they are reaching out and talking to each other. More now than ever.
The severe circumstances created by the pandemic has prompted leaders to connect to their peer networks more frequently. They are spending more time engaging with fellow CEOs to ask questions, discover new resources and discuss issues that no one else but a C-level executive could understand. On a normal day, CEOs are mainly focused on orchestrating from the top down. Amidst a global crisis, CEOs are connecting laterally, with each other, to make it through emergent and unprecedented challenges. Several CEOs have shared that the experience has made them feel less alone in confronting hardship and that peer interactions have accelerating the velocity of their learning.
As Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Reckitt Benckiser, puts it: “I find talking to other CEOs about how they are handling the crisis extremely helpful—this shared experience connects us and gives me added perspectives.” Says AmerisourceBergen CEO Steve Collis, “From an external perspective, I’ve been a beneficiary of amazing calls with other CEOs who have been willing to share their knowledge. This has been such a growing experience.”
2. CEOs are unlocking bolder aspirations.
Leaders are becoming more aware that barriers are less about technical limits and more about mindset. Making bold moves to advance the state of the business enhances the likelihood of positive change that results in success, along with seeing the company from an outsider’s point of view. CEOs should reflect on what their long-held assumptions are and how they can reset those assumptions to achieve new goals for the company.
3. CEOs are fully embracing stakeholder capitalism.
Stakeholder capitalism is the idea that a company’s obligations to shareholders should not come at the expense of other stakeholders. In the face of COVID-19, CEOs are distributing more attention to their various stakeholders including employees, customers, suppliers, the community and society. Research shows that tending to these various audiences can help reduce stakeholder-related risks and open fresh opportunities.
4. CEOs are elevating “to be” to the same level as “to do”
Running a business pre-pandemic revolved around executing strategy, making people decisions, and defining company culture. The pandemic ushered in heightened employee anxiety and uncertain futures, making CEOs much more aware of their responsibility to maintain morale and be a source of motivation and inspiration. Leaders are recalibrating how they show up, from revealing more of their humanity to practicing empathy and relating to employees. A “to do” list is now counterbalanced with a “to be” list, which outlines the ways leaders choose to show up for their people.
CEOs have demonstrated shifts in each of the above four areas, according to McKinsey’s analysis. Once the pandemic era passes, CEOs will be the ones to decide whether these methods are short-term or will remain a permanent part of their approach to leadership.