The second decade of the new century promises to be a turbulent one for corporate CEOs, according to Arlington, VA, management consultants, Healthy Companies International. “The challenges confronting top executives will only multiply and intensify,” says Stephen Parker, chief commercial officer of Healthy Companies, which for 20 years has maintained a continuing dialogue with 300 CEOs in 40 countries. “Our research indicates widespread uncertainty about the future. Many CEOs will be severely tested in the decade ahead.”
Healthy Companies identified ten trends that it believes are creating an adverse environment for corporate leadership:
- Volatile Markets. With increasing unpredictability in market conditions, CEOs must place more emphasis on thriving in chaos, and less on prediction and control.
- Wary Consumers. With organic growth threatened by reduced consumer confidence and restricted credit, CEOs must make the most of scarcer business opportunities by getting back to business basics and focusing on execution.
- Cynical Public. With the lingering anger from the recession naturally focused on the, “haves,” a group in which most top executives fit, CEOs must work hard to rebuild trust, even if they feel they were not to blame.
- Diminished Loyalty. With institutions floundering and short term rewards illusory, CEOs must respond to people’s yearning for organizations that are both sustainable, and in service of a clear higher purpose.
- Global Competition. With increasingly fierce global competition for reputation, customers, money and talent, CEOs must make their organizations distinctive, with a compelling customer and employee brand, while creating growth, innovation, differentiation and superior performance.
- Escalating Costs. Due to rising human capital costs and greater emphasis on the health of people and companies, CEOs must understand and manage all the levers that create healthy companies, not just the costs.
- Fear of the Future. As people have lost their collective confidence in top leaders and businesses, especially in the U.S., CEOs must find platforms to speak and act pragmatically, while creating a convincing vision of a better future.
- Public Scrutiny. With increased board and regulator accountability, as well as intense media exposure, CEOs must make collaboration, win-win partnerships, equitable rewards systems and stakeholder balance a part of the DNA of their organizations.
- Instantaneous Global Communication. With hydra-like electronic blogs and social networks making it possible for news (good, bad or fabricated) to go global in a matter of minutes, CEOs must be impeccably authentic, globally literate and facile with the new rules of social media.
- Limited Natural Resources. With greater public awareness of diminishing natural resources and the impact of business on the environment, CEOs must visibly deploy strategies to earn their credibility in a greener world.
According to Parker, the overarching challenge that these trends bring to many CEOs relates to communication. “CEOs are struggling to build trust with their employees. They need to develop communication channels to mobilize their workforces and other stakeholders, in a way that combats the noise and distraction of working in today’s tumultuous environments. CEO communication is the foundation of building a healthy company.”