CEOs must navigate 'disruption'

Business executives shaking hands
CEOs must have a devotion to working with customers, among other traits, to succeed.

CEOs are surrounded by pressure, internal and external, and it takes nimble leaders with foresight to navigate what is constantly coming at them.

CEOs “are in an interesting situation,” said Benjamin Finzi, managing director of Deloitte's CEO Program. “It’s a world of big shifts with much continuing disruption.”

Finzi defined disruption as “radical change in the business model.”

A report released by Deloitte said it provided insights about what it takes for global CEOs to meet the challenges of today's relentless market pressures and succeed as a leader.

The study identified and explored five characteristics leaders should consider embracing and nurturing to respond to the dynamics of disruption, Deloitte said.

The firm said it included deeper insights into the elements of these characteristics and examples of the successes and failures of real-life top executives who have embraced and embodied enduring qualities, such as:

  • Ambidexterity: Cultivating the tension between exploitation and exploration; focusing simultaneously on the present as well as on the riskier future to leverage and maximize opportunities on the pathway to new pursuits.
  • Emotional fortitude: An ability to combine a sober assessment of potential risks and roadblocks with the fearlessness to pursue lofty visions.
  • A beginner's mindset: The ability to derive confidence from the naiveté that comes from curiosity rather than from the certainty that comes from experience.
  • Mastery of disruptive jujitsu: An ability to recognize and "hijack" disruptive elements to develop a competitive advantage.
  • An obsession with end-user ethnography: Devotion to the end-to-end customer experience.

"Investors, stakeholders, consumers and partners expect executive leaders to navigate rapidly changing and often unpredictable market conditions,” Finzi said.

Leaders “are expected to demonstrate clear vision, embrace technology innovation, foster brand loyalty, foresee and manage conflict, and inspire teams across the organization—all while delivering consistent growth,” Finzi added. “To succeed requires a highly specialized set of skills."

"Historically, the role of the CEO has been to shield and protect the organization from outside upheavals—but today, every organization is adapting to a never-ending cycle of environmental pressures, each of which disrupts some portion of the business system," said Mark Lipton, research strategy lead and independent senior advisor of the CEO Program.

Being resilient to that disruption “and understanding how to turn it into market opportunity will be essential to any organization's long-term success," Lipton said.

The report is based on interviews with 24 CEOs from well-performing global organizations in banking, pharmaceuticals, technology, natural resources, food processing, health care delivery, retail and manufacturing.