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Today’s CEOs don’t just lead companies. They lead ecosystems.

June 11, 2022
Borderless Leadership

It wasn’t so long ago that a CEO was considered effective if they could keep the board of directors happy, appease shareholders, and steer clear of major reputational issues.

Not so anymore.

The job description for the CEO of today is being crowdsourced, with nearly every segment of society — employees, customers, suppliers, governments, and activists — registering their expectations and demands.

Today’s challenges, from the pandemic to ESG to ongoing efforts to address racial inequity, have only woven business and society more tightly together. Indeed, 86% of CEOs and board members see business and society becoming more interconnected, and two thirds of the American public want CEOs to take a stand on social issues.

To better understand the implications of this shift, our firm, Korn Ferry, spoke with 105 board directors, many of whom are also CEOs, from 311 North American companies across 11 industries.

Our research shows that as the job description for CEOs changes, so too does the playbook for successful leadership. The stakeholder landscape is much more vast and rugged, meaning there’s more room for missteps and error. What was once out of scope is now in scope, forcing difficult decisions about who and what to prioritize. And the skills required to be successful extend beyond traditional command-and-control tactics to things like influencing without formal authority.

If CEOs are to deliver against their new job description, they must become a different type of CEO: an enterprise leader who also stewards the ecosystem in which their business operates, including customers, suppliers, partners, competitors, governments, and their local community. While few CEOs have assumed this role in full — it’s early enough that very few of us have it figured out — our research shows that these five steps are key to getting started. READ MORE

by Sarah Jensen Clayton, Tierney Remick, and Evelyn Orr


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