Leadership by Design: Navigate the complexities of today’s leadership and management environment.

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This summary article showcases ideas from a recent episode of BCG’s Imagine This... podcast. Alongside BCG Managing Director and Senior Partner Judith Wallenstein, we explore a future scenario without CEOs as we know them today.

BCG’s conversational AI agent GENE, which cohosts the podcast, generated this summary—with oversight and editing provided by humans.

Imagine this: it's 2030, and the role of the CEO, as we know it today, has evolved into something far different. The rapid pace of technological advances, coupled with an increasingly volatile global economy, has rendered the traditional CEO model obsolete. In its place, a new paradigm has emerged: the chief ecosystem orchestrator.

The So What

This transformation isn't just a change in title; it signifies a profound shift in the responsibilities and skills required to lead a successful organization in the 21st century. Unconfined by traditional corporate structures, the chief ecosystem orchestrator will operate in a world where boundaries among companies, industries, and even nations are blurred.

These next-generation CEOs will navigate a landscape where success depends on internal operations and on the ability to manage a complex web of external relationships and influences.

The Necessity for Adaptation

  • A world that's more interconnected and unpredictable than ever before demands that CEOs be prepared for change.
  • CEOs will lead organizations that must adapt to rapid technological changes, from the rise of generative AI to the urgent need for climate resilience.
  • They will face geopolitical tensions that directly impact their supply chains and market access.
  • The traditional model of a CEO, with a singular focus on internal management and shareholder value, will no longer be sufficient.

The Shift Toward a Co-CEO Model

  • The increasing complexity of the CEO role will cause many organizations to embrace a model in which two complementary profiles share leadership responsibilities.
  • This model permits a more nuanced approach to leadership, combining internal management prowess with external engagement and strategic foresight.

AI as an Essential Tool

  • AI will play a pivotal role in streamlining decision-making processes, enhancing leaders’ analytical capabilities, and identifying complex global trends.
  • CEOs will use AI to navigate vast amounts of data and information so they can make more informed decisions and identify opportunities and threats more effectively.

A Focus Beyond the Organization

  • The chief ecosystem orchestrator must excel in managing a network of relationships that extend beyond the company's boundaries, to multiple third parties, including suppliers, partners, regulators, and customers.
The leadership traits we’ll need in 2030 are certainly not the leadership traits we needed ten years ago or the leadership traits we see today.

Now What

As the role of the CEO evolves, current and aspiring leaders must develop the skills and mindset required to thrive in this new era. Current CEOs can take action on several fronts to enhance corporate performance and to ensure that they and their businesses are well positioned for the future:

1. Cultivate broad business acumen.

  • Gain experience across various business functions to better understand their interdependencies.
  • Engage in continuous learning to stay abreast of technological advances and global market trends.

2. Strengthen and prioritize external relationships.

  • Build and maintain strategic partnerships, fostering collaboration with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
  • Engage with policymakers, regulators, and industry leaders to influence and navigate the external environment effectively.
  • Hone the ability to influence and collaborate with a diverse range of stakeholders.
  • Identify and leverage synergies within an ecosystem to drive value creation and competitive advantage.

3. Embrace technological innovation.

4. Adopt emerging leadership skills.

  • Move away from the traditional image of the all-knowing leader.
  • Develop humility, vulnerability, empathy, and the ability to manage ambiguity.
  • Strengthen communication skills needed to articulate vision, inspire teams, and engage stakeholders.
  • Participate in open dialogue throughout the organization.
  • Think like a scientist and not an evangelist: look for evidence that challenges hypotheses, and salt the leadership team with individuals who push new thinking.

5. Foster a culture of adaptability and resilience.

  • Among team members, encourage a mindset of flexibility and openness to change.
  • Develop robust contingency plans to navigate uncertainties and respond effectively to crises.

6. Champion diversity and inclusion.

  • Promote diversity within leadership teams and throughout the organization to tap into a range of perspectives and experiences.
  • Create an inclusive culture in which all team members feel valued and can contribute to their full potential.

Leadership by Design: Navigate the complexities of today’s leadership and management environment.

Judith Wallenstein leads BCG’s CEO Advisory program, which supports the success of current and prospective CEOs through individual guided self-reflection, counsel, and the convening of peer forums.

You can find Imagine This... wherever you get your podcasts.

Meet Judith

Headshot of BCG expert Judith Wallenstein

Judith Wallenstein

Managing Director & Senior Partner