Odgers berndtson
Location and language United States | EN

The evolution of responsible leadership: Future traits and experiences

For years ‘digital transformation’ has been the catchphrase of almost all leadership searches. Boards want leaders who embrace technology, understand how to implement it, and who can lead the charge on a journey of change.

This is still a key component that organizations look for. However, diversity, equity and inclusion, sustainability, the supply chain crises, and the war in Europe is giving rise to new demands for leadership. Purely enacting change is no longer the standout skill it once was. It is imperative that leaders understand the need to adapt rapidly to changing circumstances, can make the right decisions in the moment, and predict and lean into future disruption. It is not just agility that future successful leaders need to have. All of this must be achieved through leading with purpose, authenticity and empathy.

Organizations demand leaders who believe in what’s best for all stakeholders, not just the shareholders, and the broader impact the organization has on the environment and society.

We have seen this play out firsthand, and not just in the leadership appointments we’ve helped organizations make. Our Leadership Confidence Index 2022 showed a marked increase in confidence in leaders over the pandemic. Quite simply because many of them rose to the challenge, adapted to unprecedented circumstances, and capitalized on the disruption instead of shying away from it with purpose and authenticity.

We have seen the same capabilities rise in importance in our LeaderBluePrint model. Designed to evaluate an executive’s competencies, motivations and experiences against the organization's requirements, it highlights the core capabilities needed by today’s leaders. Like the best leaders, this model adjusts to changing environments and we update the profile to meet modern needs.

Odgers Berndtson is in the process of identifying the traits, drivers, and experiences of the type of leader who is now best fit to lead organizations.

We are yet to fully define this profile, but below is my prediction for what the modern leader will look like. 

Read now: How to take your I&D journey from insight to impact

How modern times are shaping the leadership landscape

In 2020, our first Leadership Confidence Index identified adaptability and agility as essential traits of modern leaders. We didn’t know how right we were going to be. Since then, 'Black Swan' events – those that would have occurred every seven to eight years – have happened on a yearly basis. The pandemic, Black Lives Matter, supply chain disruption, the war in Europe, and inflation have all taken place in the past two and a half years, forcing leaders to adapt and pivot their businesses to each one.

At the same time, society’s demands of the corporate world and what employees expect of leaders is giving rise to a new kind of leadership profile. Those who care about societal issues and sustainability, who demonstrate humility and honesty, and want to drive stakeholder value, not just shareholder value, can engage talented people and are outperforming those who don’t have these motivations.

Read now: Why making one-off hires won’t help you achieve diversity

The traits and experiences of future high-performing leaders

Affiliation and altruism are becoming critically important for leaders. This means behaving as a guide rather than a hero, standing within the group and not above it, demonstrating a willingness to work with the team rather than simply delegating orders, and having an impact beyond just making money.

Based on current economic and social trends, purpose-led leadership will be an inherent quality required in all leaders. On top of this, I expect creative problem-solving, a willingness to take risks, and an ability to challenge the status quo to be core traits of future high-performing leaders. Importantly, in hiring C-suite leaders, boards will expect candidates to give examples of when they’ve demonstrated these traits.

The core competencies will be team building, strategic clarity, and a strong ability to influence stakeholders.

Boards increasingly want leaders who can set up a long-term strategy, build a team capable of delivering that strategy, and then drive it forward through empowerment.

The ability to engage with all levels of a business and bring together disparate groups on a journey of change will be one of the most sought-after skills over the next two to five years. Similar to the competencies underlying digital transformation, leaders will need to be able to influence all stakeholders so they align with the vision they are selling. 

Read now: A change in talent: transformation of the CFO

This profile is based on the current environment, emerging trends, and our interaction with the market. Over the next six months we will refine this profile, creating a LeaderBlueprint model that gives organizations the tools to assess and measure their needs so they can identify the type of leader who is the best fit for their business.

To discuss the changing landscape of leadership and your own organizational needs, contact us here or find your local Odgers Berndtson contact.

Stay up to date: Sign up here for our newsletter, OBSERVE, and receive the latest news in leadership and top talent, industry insights, and events directly to your inbox. 

Find a consultant [[ Scroll to top ]]