C-suite must transform leadership styles to engage ‘supergroup’

C-suite must transform leadership styles to engage ‘supergroup’

Already challenged C-suite leaders are facing intense pressure from an emerging ‘supergroup’ of employees and consumers that demands a fresh approach to leadership, new research finds.

With three-quarters of these powerful stakeholders (73 per cent) believing they have the potential to destroy company value in the long term, it is vital the C-suite understands the need to respond, the study warns.

The Whole-Brain Leadership: the new rules of engagement for the C-suite report from Accenture Strategy identifies a new influential group of stakeholders with the power to either destabilise or uplift businesses.

Dubbed the ‘pathfinders’, they share a common mindset about how leadership needs to change.

Pathfinders are five times more likely to take action in numbers against their employers, and three-fifths (61 per cent) report they have already taken disruptive action by voicing their disappointment as a customer.

Four-fifths of pathfinders say that social media has increased the power of their voice in the companies where they work, and 71 per cent say it has enabled them to influence the behaviour of the companies they buy from.

“Pressures are compounding on the C-suite like never before. The complexity and intensity of disruption is challenging executives to transform leadership styles and strategies on their journey to achieve competitive agility,” said Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy.

Pathfinders are demanding a new type of leader to engage their passion and capabilities, one that has a strong balance of human-centered and analytics-led skills. This “whole-brain” approach balances ‘left’ (scientific) brain skills with increasingly valued ‘right’ (creative) brain skills, such as empathy, innovation and intuition.

They clearly have energy and ideas about what organisations should be doing so the leadership challenge is to harness this and turn it to the company’s advantage”

The majority (89 per cent) of today’s C-suite hold business school, science or technology degrees and have honed left-brain skills – such as critical reasoning, decision-making and results-orientation.

While these skills will always be valuable, according to Accenture, C-suite leaders must recognise the need to strengthen their right-brain skills for a well-rounded whole-brain skillset. Two thirds say that right-brain skills are their weakest and only 8 per cent report their organisations are using a whole-brain approach.

In today’s volatile business environment, this balance is no longer an option, cautions Accenture. The companies that have already adopted a whole-brain approach see a positive bottom-line impact and realise, on average, 22 per cent higher revenue growth and 34 per cent higher profitability, the report notes.

The report is based on interviews with 200 C-suite executives across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and US and surveyed more than 11,000 employees and consumers in China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and US.

Commenting on the research, Rialto Consultancy director Richard Chiumento welcomed the insight the report provides on this emerging group of people. “They clearly have energy and ideas about what organisations should be doing so the leadership challenge is to harness this and turn it to the company’s advantage,” he said. “This will require a different type of leadership style and leaders must listen to what they have to say and be receptive to implementing their ideas.”

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