Recent research shows there are two main challenges that organisations face. Changing their organisational design and coping with uncertainty. As technology and globalisation have a profound impact on the nature of work, organisations need to find new ways to respond to customer demands, and engage a workforce increasingly comprised of digital natives. Indeed, the World Economic Forum recently identified the top three skills required of workers as:

  • Complex problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity

This is far removed from traditional notions of leadership – the idea of one powerful person determining the destiny of others.

Leadership in future will become far more distributed, with self-organising teams working together to tackle problems and create innovative solutions in an era where constant change is the new norm. The role of the leader will be far more about creating clarity and drawing people towards a collective purpose. Certainly, there is an increasing weight of evidence that what we need from our leaders will be far different in future. Indeed, It’s likely that in an era that will be more machine led through AI and robotics, the human elements – the soft skills – will come more to the fore. The World Economic Forum’s recently released report also predicts the top required skills in 2020 would additionally include ‘people management’. Skills that necessarily involve working across teams and drawing upon the insights of others. It’s no surprise that the WEF ranks people management and emotional intelligence as numbers 5 and 6 on the list. Also, as organisations seek the benefits that come with having a more diverse workforce, the onus on the leader will be to demonstrate flexibility in how they are able to unlock the potential that lies in teams and people who bring different perspectives and ideas. The ability to create and articulate a vision, and demonstrate the humility that engenders trust, will be a key attribute.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the CEO will disappear completely. Organisations are collections of people, and history shows that wherever there are groups of people there will always be leaders. Individuals will still need to be held accountable for their actions – we are constantly reminded of the consequences when this doesn’t happen.

CEO’s aren’t doomed, but power is.


Read more about the effects of technology and globalisation in this earlier blog.

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7th June 2021

Offices will be full-ish again – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for creativity.

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Before COVID-19, remote working was a novelty idea. Atholl Duncan explores how millions migrated to their kitchens without businesses failing.

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Leaders In Lockdown

12th November 2020

Atholl Duncan’s CityAM article reflecting on the effects of the lockdown on business and the book he has written about it.