Research & Thought Leadership

Do you have what it takes to be a leader?

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We recognize that norms, roles, and trends in the world of work continue to shift and evolve at a rapid pace.

We conducted a 2024 survey drawing on the expertise of our world-class faculty of senior executives, entrepreneurs, and academic practitioners to uncover what it takes to be a leader today. Here are their top four areas of leadership focus we discovered.

1. Ethical leadership: the quiet power behind healthy businesses

Ethics covers a wide range of topics for businesses: from sustainability to inclusivity, leaders more than ever need to elevate their ethical outlook and their imperative to do business for good.

Our experts agreed that sustainability ranks very highly as an area of focus for leaders today. As per the UN definition, sustainability policies must span a wide range of critical business areas such as people strategies and renewable practices.

This relates closely to another ethical practice which is rightfully a hotter topic than ever; DEIB. As cultural transformation continues apace, it is now a matter of sustainability and responsibility to ensure that your workforce has equal opportunities and voice in your organization. And this is only one aspect of protecting team well-being, which our research also flagged as an important focus area.

Interestingly, this growing ethical focus correlates with a demand for emotional intelligence in our leaders, according to our experts. This suggests that a degree of human empathy is required to engage – and lead others to engage – in ethical practices.

Key reflections:

Review the ethical code in your organization. Is sustainability – both for people and the planet – embedded in your business practices? Are you nurturing emotional intelligence as a quality and skill for success as an ethical leader?

2. Adaptability and agility outshine other leadership qualities, particularly in a world of AI

Perpetual change is the only constant. As a result, leaders with the ability to adapt quickly to – and even foresee – change are crucial for creating future value. Being able to pivot in unpredictable and dynamic circumstances will become more and more central to how businesses work this year and beyond.

Our faculty agrees that this need is particularly evident in the area of AI-driven digital transformation. The speed of AI evolution has created an atmosphere in which leaders must embrace agility and adaptability above all.

Key reflections:

Static or fixed systems and mindsets could hold your organization back. How can your teams and processes become flexible to change?

3. Confidence is overrated: Get ready for more subtle leadership qualities

Confidence can often be confused with resilience and competence, so its importance can be overstated. Our experts argue that resilience is among the most important qualities for the modern leader, but it may not be as outwardly stoic as we may imagine. In the shift from ‘manager’ to ‘leader’, space has been created for subtler leadership qualities such as empathy, humility, and transparency.

With leadership qualities such as ‘curiosity’ ranking highly with our expert faculty members (and ‘confidence’ ranking low), we start to see a trend towards a more authentic, vulnerable, and human leader emerging; a leader who understands that it’s more important to ask the right questions than to appear to have the right answers.

Key reflections:

The expectation, especially among younger generations, for well-rounded leaders is growing. Would you define yourself as a ‘leader’ or a ‘manager’? What qualities does this bring out in your leadership style?

4. Cultural intelligence is the rising star for leaders

Massive cultural shifts are beginning to create demand for culturally intelligent leaders. Besides globalization leading to a more multicultural working world, a major area of focus coming up for leaders is adapting to Gen Z (born 1997-2012) entering the workforce, our research found.

Preparedness for, and openness to, new cultural landscapes will be a key, forward-looking outlook this year, paving the way for change-makers in years to come.

Key reflections:

How can you create space in your organization’s culture to be enriched by new cultures, both from a geographic and generational perspective?

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