The 2020s have been declared the “decade of delivery” for society to come together and tackle the challenges ahead. To succeed in this new era requires a new kind of leadership and a fresh approach.
These findings are from the new report, Seeking New Leadership: Responsible Leadership for a Sustainable and Equitable World. It is based on surveys of more than 5,000 individuals comprising members of the Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers communities, chief executive officers and other business leaders, employees, consumers and other stakeholder groups.
While some organizations are further along in creating an environment in which trust, innovation and strong organizational performance reinforce each other, those that do not may be left behind.
The report, carried out in collaboration with Accenture, offers organizations a new compass to help them develop and scale up responsible leadership. Three overarching priorities are spotlighted. First, leaders must deliver daily organizational performance. Secondly, leaders much embrace continuous innovation to unlock new value for the long term. Thirdly, leaders must earn and build stakeholder trust through sustainable and responsible approaches, meeting increasingly vocal expectations for social and environmental progress.
Companies that achieve all three priorities also appear to stand apart by how they lead. Their top teams exhibit diverse and sometimes unfamiliar leadership qualities. To name just a few: continuous learning backed by data; a stakeholder mindset anchored in compassion; a technology vision reinforced by creativity; generous humility, and listening to intuition. We classify these and others into Five Elements – qualities that leadership teams will need to navigate the decade ahead:
Stakeholder Inclusion: The ability to stand in the shoes of all stakeholders and make the organization responsive to them
Emotion and Intuition: An instinctive and authentic willingness to bring the whole self to work and encourage this in others, unlocking the power of creativity and imagination
Mission and Purpose: The confidence to create and inspire a shared long-term vision for the organization and its stakeholders
Technology and Innovation: A passion to innovate and learn using new technologies to unlock organizational and societal value
Intellect and Insight: A voracious appetite to learn continuously and to reach decisions based on facts, data and objective analyses
“The climate emergency, social inequality and economic fragility threaten human wellbeing like never before,” said Adrian Monck, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum. “We need an era of stakeholder capitalism in which companies combine entrepreneurialism with an ultimate purpose, working with other stakeholders to improve the state of the world in which they do business. The good news is that the next generation aspires to develop the broad range of leadership skills and attributes that are required in the 2020s.”
“The assumptions that have long underpinned the nature of leadership are being shattered by growing demands for socio-economic and environmental progress,” said Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer at Accenture. “A new generation is redefining leadership to drive sustainable growth and prosperity for all. They know that leading with purpose, innovation and accountability – rooted in evidence and compassion – must become second nature. Our collaboration with the Forum’s Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers will accelerate the development of responsible leadership capabilities among some of the world’s most exceptional people.”
Specifically, the study found that companies in the top 20% of their industry on sustainability and stakeholder trust, innovation, and financial performance, which the report refers to as “Triple High Performers”, have leaders who disproportionally display the five elements of responsible leadership. According to the report, the findings suggest that only stakeholder-centric business models can unlock the full power of innovation to elevate organizational performance and drive societal progress.