Irish News

Leaders take a bow

By Business & Finance
22 July 2022

Executive recruitment company Odgers Berndtson’s Leadership Confidence Index 2022 finds boosted confidence in organisational leadership compared to 2020.

Same leaders, magnified confidence

Their global study, in partnership with Forrester, surveyed 1,100 business executives in a broad range of sectors, geographies and scales. It found that 42% of respondents have confidence that their organisations are in good leadership hands. However, in 2020, before the pandemic had begun, just 24% reported the same confidence.

Understanding what’s behind this turnaround gives useful signposts for board members and leaders for the road ahead, especially as executives would have voted on the same leadership in place two years earlier.

You are likely to be perceived as being a better leader than you were two years ago. It was the urgency, clarity of purpose and care for your team that got you there. Don’t lose this, as the added engagement produces exponential results.

CEO is the lynchpin

Disruption is the standout influence that marked these two years. The handling of the pandemic has had a large part to play in senior executives’ notable swing in confidence. The urgency was the catalyst for adept leaders to enact qualities that perhaps lay underutilised in relatively calmer times. By digging deep, they steered and managed their teams through uncertainty and, in the process, visibly displayed impressive competencies.

Of all the C-level positions, the CEO is seen by 85% as the most vital in successfully managing disruption and change. Though technology was central to thriving through rather than surviving the pandemic, boards’ roles were ranked higher than that of the CIO and CDO.

Boards change gear

Odgers Berndtson Ireland works intimately with companies to identify the unique qualities needed in specific roles and to overview collective leadership to ensure balanced competencies. Managing partner Mark O’Donnell has seen a pronounced increase in board engagement over the past 48 months. Focus switched from mainly governance and review to hands-on involvement in strategy, working in close collaboration with CEOs, CHROs and other C-level executives.

Leaders performed better; organisations gained

90% of organisations whose executives took part said they’d felt the impact of disruption, but 71% achieved growth despite this. Leaders decisively realigned management teams with a new and clear purpose and navigated through the storm speedily and successfully. They showed their mettle and gained increased engagement among their workforces.

Tech: mindset change from disruptor to enabler

It’s interesting to chart technology’s effect on businesses during the past two years. This survey shows that accelerated tech adoption led to a lessening of resistance to change, as immediate operational needs were apparent to users. The mindset of tech has shifted. Two years ago, 62% of executives saw technology as a disruptor. In 2022, this reduced to 44%.

Senior executives need to be tech-savvy

The same executives are also cautious of who’s in charge of decisions on technology strategy. Just 26% feel high confidence that senior executives can prioritise technology investments knowledgeably in the face of disruption and seismic change.

Attitudes to technology have changed for just about everyone, but most leaders are perceived as being behind in understanding what is needed. If you have delegated technology strategy and understanding to the CIO, then you are a dinosaur and will be extinct soon.

Not all good news

While many leaders were catalysed by a crisis to lead in new, dynamic ways, 44% of executives surveyed saw their leaders’ performance as poor or fair over the past two years. Moreover, 48% have just medium confidence in their competency to negotiate more disruption to come, and 11% expressed low confidence.

These results highlight how crucial it is for leadership to demonstrate the ability to strategise creatively. When this is lacking, loyalty, engagement and retention decrease. An uninspired workforce doesn’t pull together, and bright talent leaves. Therefore, regular reviews of collective leadership skills and assets are critical in ensuring preparedness for inevitable future volatility.

Crises highlight where leadership is poor

When companies are helmed by able, inspiring leaders, they attract and engage the best teams, enticing exceptional performance from core people. With these solid ingredients, they dominate their markets by working imaginatively and cleverly around external forces. Conversely, when organisations get it wrong, their struggle to weather the storm results from poor leadership.

Skilled leaders take advantage of disruption

Keeping pace with change is no longer enough. Businesses need to rely on the kind of leadership talent that can confidently embrace new threats and strategies to use them as springboards, not expend wasted energy merely in efforts to withstand them.

Read more interesting findings in the full report.

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