Essential Executive skills for 2024 

Essential Executive skills for 2024 

Filter tag: Change Management and Executive Outplacement, Leadership Capability, Strategies for Growth

The world of work is changing at a dizzying pace, led by the accelerated evolution and expanding application of disruptive technologies, post-pandemic cultural shifts and continuing globalisation.

In response, boards need to continue to develop strategies that embrace strength and foresight but also dynamism, agility and resilience. Business models must be built like Tokyo skyscrapers – reaching to the future yet flexible enough to be able to withstand powerful earthquakes.

Senior leadership must therefore embrace transformational leadership and ensure a depth and breadth of relevant technical and soft skills to ride the crest of the wave instead of being washed aside.

With ongoing pressure continuing, following the trauma and turbulence of the pandemic, it is perhaps little surprise that 2023 became the year of the Great Resignation. The number of CEOs stepping down doubled on the previous year and was higher than in any year since consultancy firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc. started keeping records in 2002.

Now is the time for senior executives and leadership with ambitions to reach the highest echelons of management to take stock and reposition themselves in a state of readiness for whatever the near future brings.  And if the last four years have taught us anything, it’s that we must prepare for everything and anything.

Here we share the five executive skills and areas of expertise that are most valued in 2024 and which feed into the Rialto Accelerated Leadership Index (RALI) research.  Through our surveys and day-to-day work with executives from a range of functions and sectors, these are the capabilities that are most commonly felt to be the most essential to optimise organisational stability, change management, growth and transformational leadership in the current environment.


Strategic Thinking: 

Why? Senior leaders need to be equipped to make informed decisions in moments of extreme pressure or crisis as well as to forward-plan strategies like a master chess player, taking every foreseeable eventuality into account and revising the game plan move by move if necessary.

They will need to see the big picture, anticipate changing conditions, customer requirements, workforce needs including post-pandemic mental health and hybrid or home-working, compliance and technological evolution.

How? Stay ahead of current and coming trends; look into the future, where will the new markets emerge? How will your client or customer base change? What technologies will augment your current operations and how can you best integrate and harness them? What are your competitors doing here and overseas? Choose a trusted team of colleagues and advisors who, between them, possess the skills and expertise to help you design and constantly adjust an agile business model that will enable sound, knowledge-based decisions; keep asking questions; exercise your own mind to keep it agile, read or listen to the latest management books and theories; play chess or squash – or anything that requires speed, decisiveness and strategy.


Leadership and Social Influence: 

Why? In an increasingly complex and interrelated world, senior executives may need to connect with, direct, foster collaboration with and/or inspire confidence in a much more complex network of stakeholders than ever before. These will include close colleagues, the wider workforce, clients and customers, partners, funders, shareholders and influencers.  Leadership needs to take centre stage, to embody organisational ethos and essentially sell themself to sell their product or service. People are no longer content to be sold an abstract or an idea – they want to see the wizard behind the curtain before they decide where to put their money or resources or with whom to entrust their own careers. Leaders need to be as confident holding an audience on Zoom as they are in a room.

How? Leaders often need to exert influence without formal authority. In-person networking and inter-personal communications still remain essential to gain trust of other stakeholders; however social influence is increasingly a core requirement of senior leadership, essential for driving collaboration, building team cohesion and achieving goals.  Leaders must be storytellers, articulating visions and strategies with clarity and authenticity to capture, celebrate and promote the work, progress and unique identity of their organisation.

In a world where Insta, Facebook and others open direct lines of communication between CEOs and any connected individual in the world, visibility, presence and image need to be flawless and carefully choreographed. Think of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos insensitively tweeting about his dog-sledding holiday in Norway when his customers were queueing at food banks. The backlash was quelled with a costly minimum wage rise at his warehouses.  His momentary error of judgment demonstrated the need for qualities that have emerged as newly essential in the wake of Covid: compassion and empathy. Steely aloofness, ostentatious success and imperious superiority are no longer valued qualities as hierarchical structures are swept away. It is not enough simply to do the right thing. Leaders must be seen to be doing the right thing.   They should be confident in sharing honest and difficult news, encouraging and raising people up, demonstrating an authentic commitment to a vision, influencing through actions as well as words.  Stakeholders should be made to feel that the communications goes both ways; transformational leadership must efficiently disseminate appropriate and targeted messaging, but equally, listen and respond. Successful executives know how to use teams and technology to filter the noise and extract the invaluable gems of sentiment and satisfaction from customers and employees – and to respond and adapt appropriately.  Playing team games such as cricket or football or volunteering can help keep executives grounded and connected with people beyond their professional networks.


The 3 As: Agility, Adaptability, Acumen. 

Why? These 3 trusted A’s continue to figure highly as three central pillars of effective leadership. They are vital to change management and shaping competitive advantage to deliver operational excellence in a world which we have established is forever changed and changing, quickly and constantly.

How? Business acumen has been a constant requirement; understanding the questions that need to be asked, the conventional pathways to success, possession of organisational skills and confident decision-making capacity. Acumen is an integral foundation of good leadership. These skills can be picked up in business school and on the job and be refined and kept relevant by excellent mentoring and continuous learning, though elements of innate common sense, humility and perceptiveness will also go a long way.

Agility and adaptability have become increasingly important in recent years for reasons we have stated above. Executives and senior leadership need to stay alert, fit, fully informed and at the top of their game, ready to swing into action and change tack with the wind when necessary. That means staying physically fit, mentally well and self aware.  An open mindset, willingness to let go of the familiar and embrace the new and presently unknown is also essential. We encourage individuals to push themselves outside of their comfort zones, in their private lives, taking up a new hobby, embracing new cultural genres, as well as opening their minds to new technologies or business practices.


Global mindset and cultural sensitivity: 

Why? Globalisation has dissolved economic borders. Post-pandemic, the mass adoption of hybrid and home working has further opened up international workforces, while the permanent switch to online buying has extended marketplaces to corners of the earth that were previously beyond the wildest dreams of marketers and sellers. Leaders who represent their brands and organisations must be seen to be looking beyond their regional borders and to show a deep and genuine understanding of the complexities of different markets and the diverse peoples within them.

How? As their organisations increasingly look further afield for the skills in short supply at home, leaders need to show that they are educated around different cultures. Executives responsible for strategic development and sales need to be evaluating new and emerging markets and looking at unfamiliar business processes, customs and requirements to tap into and exploit globalisation. What sells here may sell there but it may need a completely different approach and delivery. In executive meetings and communications, this means being fully briefed about customs and appropriate use of language.

Cultural insensitivity combined with the risk of instant public exposure via social media can inflict fatal reputational damage on any brand. Marketing executives need to reflect the diversity of the global marketplace and of its targeted regions and honour local customs. Consult people on the ground and listen to feedback. Boards of international companies need to ensure diverse representation at the top and ask for reassurances and visible evidence on organisational literature and branding which demonstrate a global mindset.

Pepsi Cola made what seemed like an innocuous branding tweak when it changed  the colour of its vending machines in South East Asia from deep to light blue. Local knowledge would have warned them the paler colour is associated with death in the highly superstitious region. The company lost its marketplace dominance to its great rival. This revealed the need for executives to ensure globalisation and cultural sensitivity are embedded into the company DNA.


Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility:

Why? No matter how many times epidemiologists warned that a pandemic was probably imminent, no country, economy or organisation in the world was prepared for the seismic shock when Covid-19 first hit. UK business insolvencies rose by more than 50% from 2021- 2023, with commentators blaming the aftermath of the pandemic exacerbated by Brexit. Those that survived – and some that thrived – showed resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

How? Like a suspension bridge, secure businesses also need stress tolerance built into their models and it is up to leadership to regularly interrogate their own organisations for structural weaknesses. Leadership should be constantly checking any stress points and ensuring counterpoints are built in. They should be asking, what if? What next?

On a more personal level, executives and senior leaders need to be able to absorb and deflect economic and organisational shocks and be seen to embody strength, stability and resilience, ready to withstand even the most devastating and unpredictable events, whether generated internally or environmentally, and make sound, knowledge-based decisions which ensure the best outcomes.

This is how they will lead their organisations through the challenges and opportunities presented by the dynamic business landscape of 2024.  As we continue to witness unprecedented levels of disruption, the ability of leaders to demonstrate these skills and ensure they run through the veins of the company will determine the success of their organisations and shape the future workplace.


The Rialto Accelerated Leadership Index (RALI) research underscores the importance of these competencies.  It is imperative for current and aspiring leaders to cultivate them through continuous learning, self-reflection and proactive engagement with the challenges of our times. Only by doing so can leaders ensure they are not only prepared for the future but are also actively carving out a strategic vision it in a way that is resilient, inclusive, and forward-thinking.

We will share further insights and trends from our research with you. If you are interested in taking part in events such as our leadership dialogues and surveys, please contact us on +44 (0) 20 3746 2960 or email info@rialtoconsultancy.com

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