The Chief Disruptor: In a time of growing uncertainty, we find CEOs disrupting or challenging their own role in order to better lead the business.
- Almost seven in 10 (68%) respondents say they have taken steps to disrupt their role in the last 12 months.
- A similar proportion say they are more open to new influences and collaborations than at any other point in their career.
- Only 26% believe their emotional intelligence is as important as their technical skills.
- Of three personas identified during this research, the largest group is the “positive disruptor” – CEOs who remain committed to innovation and challenging the status quo despite the changing economic landscape.
Geopolitics; the new uncertainty: It is an opportune time for CEOs to rethink what they stand for. In the space of a year, the world has become a more complicated place – economically, geopolitically and technologically.
- In 2017, two in three CEOs (70%) feel confident about global economic growth during the next 3 years. CEOs are also notably less confident in their own industry’s prospects for growth.
- 34% of South African CEOs believe the uncertainty of the political landscape has had a greater impact on their business than they have seen for many years. However, 88% are ramping up their scenario planning to plot a course through uncertain waters. And 92% say they are recruiting new skills/specialists into their management team to better understand geopolitical risk.
- Many CEOs, particularly in the US, believe the new US Administration will have a positive effect on their organization’s growth (52 vs 86%), yet those outside the US are more circumspect about the likely impact on global growth (33% vs 52% saying positive effect).
- CEOs in SA are sceptical about their dealings with the UK ahead of Brexit, with less than half (40%) saying it would have a positive effect on their organisation’s growth.
Business growth: CEOs are cautiously optimistic about their own businesses, but some are toning down their prospects for the years ahead. A renewal on their core strengths is the focus.
- CEOs expect the global economy to have the single biggest impact on their company’s growth in the coming years. There has been a drop in the number of CEOs that are confident in their business’ 3-year prospects (from 72% in 2016 to 60% today).
- To achieve growth, half of South African CEOs are prioritising Africa for new market growth, while 76% are not yet interested in overseas markets.
Talent: Talent management is coming into focus as an important area of investment over the next 3 years.
- In keeping with the tone of cautious optimism on growth, CEOs are scaling down their ambitions for headcount growth. 76% expect their number of employees to increase by more than 5% in the near future.
- However, CEOs identified recruitment as their top area of investment over the next 3 years, with 82% saying they plan to provide incremental investment funds for recruitment over this same period.
- CEOs say the third largest barrier to strategy implementation is lack of skills/knowledge (26%).
Innovation remains a key ambition: As well as disrupting their own roles, CEOs are focused on driving positive disruption in the market.
- Today’s CEOs are still driven by the prospect of innovation, disruption and changing things for the better.
- 86% say their business is aiming to be the disruptor, rather than the disrupted, in their sector. More than six in 10 (68%) see disruption as an opportunity, not a threat.
The technology solution: Achieving disruption relies on the implementation of new and emerging technology. Complexity and talent gaps present key obstacles.
- Implementing disruptive tech is a top three strategic priority for CEOs, yet CEOs expect their level of investment in most emerging tech to decrease in the next 3 years, which sets up a strategic paradox.
- Some CEOs may be feeling more confident about their business’ core
technology architecture than they are about its digital capabilities. Most (82%) admit that their organisation likely isn’t disrupting business models as much as it should.
- The biggest tech-related challenges involve overcoming complexity and finding the right talent to implement new solutions.
- CEOs say that emerging cognitive technology would lead to increasing headcount in all parts of their business over the next 3 years. This is especially evident in HR (72%) and middle management (60%), but senior management numbers are also predicted to rise (54% say an increase is planned).
- Perhaps not surprisingly, integrating cognitive tech was second only to attracting new talent as the biggest tech-related challenge to the organisation.
Deepening customer relationships: Understanding the market is a work in progress.
- CEOs’ biggest customer challenges are around targeting and building the business among customer and demographic groups in their home markets.
- CEOs are largely confident that they understand their customers, with the majority (80%) believing that they are effective at sensing market signals.
- Another 80% of CEOs noted that they are able to confidently articulate how they create value for their customers.
Innovating with cyber: CEOs are finding the positives associated with cyber security. Getting it right will be an essential part of protecting the business’ reputation in the years ahead.
- Almost 10 in 10 (96%) CEOs see investment in cyber security as an opportunity to find new revenue streams and innovate, rather than as an overhead cost.
- In South Africa, Cyber risk is still giving a lot of CEOs (40%) sleepless nights, with Emerging Technology Risks being the second risk (34%).
Building trust for the long term: A shift in priorities.
- 16% believe that public trust in business will decline over the next 3 years. At the same time, 86% believe that building greater trust among external stakeholders and customers is among their top three priorities.
- Almost 10 in 10 CEOs (94%) say their organisation is placing greater importance on trust, values and culture in order to sustain its long-term future.