Glass strands

CEOs are facing a stark choice

CEOs are facing a stark choice

CEOs are facing a stark choice

Gary Reader | Leadership,

Whereas in the past, CEOs have successfully prepared their businesses to weather short term storms, batting down the hatches and resisting change in a world of continuous disruption will no longer suffice. According to our 2019 Global CEO Outlook survey, 67 percent of CEOs said that agility is the new currency of business and being too slow threatens their ability to remain relevant.

To survive, thrive and take advantage of growth opportunities, CEOs recognize they need to change their mind-set with the leap from stability to agility required both in the boardroom and across the business.  

So what does this mean in reality for the CEO? In my view a new type of resilience has emerged, one that focuses on agility, the ongoing ability to disrupt and drive growth. This resilience is needed in both their operations and in the boardroom. CEO's need to develop strategies that will strengthen their existing business model against a range of big ticket risks that are seen as a threat to growth including; climate change, technological disruption and a return to territorialism.

In my opinion, rather than building resilience one challenge at a time, the approach to change and disruption needs to be dynamic and agile. For CEOs, this means there is no place for passiveness in the boardroom or in the business. There is a need to see the big picture and push for transformation, address the culture change, the business change, the technology change needed to help remain competitive.  Entrenched, risk averse ways of working and polices will need to be revised and if necessary ripped up in favor of developing a fail fast and adaptive culture that nurtures and celebrates innovation.

Only 56 percent of CEOs in our 2019 CEO Outlook said they have a culture where fast-failing innovation is celebrated. Speaking to one CEO recently they spoke about how their company had struggled to define and drive innovation at scale across the company. They have recently set up a separate group that specifically focuses on driving innovation across targeted initiatives that are company and not departmental focused to drive development.

So how does the CEO begin to change the cultural mind-set? Our 2019 CEO Outlook states that CEOs “need to become the internal disruptors of their own businesses”. They need to begin to lead by example and challenge the status quo, starting in the boardroom. A question I'd ask of any board or leadership team is does that team have the knowledge and expertise to deal with both growth and our greatest threats? Does your cyber or digital expert sit at the top table? If culture change is key, is it a key part of every conversation? If not, why not? Don't fear the change, celebrate it.

As CEO you will need to walk the talk in the boardroom, nurture new ideas, embrace a fast-failure culture and demonstrate the flexibility and agility that you will be asking of your business.  

For me, it’s about being the change you want to see to enable your business to thrive and grow. In a world of disruption, agility is the new resilience.