An emerging supergroup of employees and consumers is adding intense
pressure to already challenged C-suite leaders who are navigating tough
economic, technological and geo-political environments — further
threatening company growth, a new Accenture (NYSE: ACN) study finds.
With nearly three-quarters of these powerful stakeholders believing they
have the potential to destroy company value in the long term, the
C-suite understands the need to respond.
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C-suite must engage a powerful group of employees and consumers with a new approach to leadership, new Accenture Strategy study finds. (Graphic: Business Wire)
Leadership: The New Rules of Engagement for the C-suite’
report from Accenture
Strategy — which is based on interviews with 200 C-suite executives
and a survey of more than 11,000 employees and consumers globally —
identified a new influential group of stakeholders with the power to
either destabilize or uplift businesses. Combined with other disruptive
forces, like emerging technologies and new market entrants, this group
is motivating the C-suite to implement a human-centered approach to
leadership. This “whole-brain” approach balances “left” (scientific)
brain skills with increasingly valued “right” (creative) brain skills,
such as empathy, innovation and intuition.
“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
An emerging supergroup
The study identified a powerful group of employees and consumers —
dubbed the ‘Pathfinders’ — who represent an additional pressure to the
C-suite and share a common mindset about how leadership needs to change.
Their demographics defy convention, spanning evenly across gender and
generations from Gen Z to Baby Boomer.
Pathfinders are five times more likely to take action in numbers against
their employer, and 61% have already taken disruptive action by voicing
their disappointment as a customer. Seventy-nine percent of Pathfinders
say that social media has increased the power of their voice in the
companies where they work, and 71% say it has enabled them to influence
the behavior of the companies they buy from.
“The spending power and professional influence of this group, combined
with their fluency of digital technologies, has given them a
disproportionate influence which company leaders can no longer ignore,”
said Katherine LaVelle, managing director, global Talent & Organization
North America lead, Accenture
Strategy. “Instead, C-suite leaders should harness their energy and
passion to accelerate the type of change that is needed to reposition
themselves and their companies for success.”
New style of leadership required
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. The majority (89%) 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, C-suite
leaders recognize the need to strengthen their right-brain skills for a
well-rounded whole-brain skillset. Sixty-five percent say that
right-brain skills are their weakest and only 8% report their
organizations using a whole-brain approach today.
In today’s volatile business environment, this balance is no longer an
option. C-suite leaders recognize this reality with 82% saying their
organization intends to use a whole-brain approach in the next three
years. The companies that have already adopted a whole-brain approach
see a positive bottom-line impact and realize on average 22% higher
revenue growth and 34% higher profitability.
“C-suite leaders are aware of the challenges that face them at a
macro-economic level, company level and now on a deeply personal level,”
said Peter Lacy, senior managing director, Accenture
Strategy. “Reskilling to change the style of leadership, by
combining data, creativity and a human-centered approaches, is now
crucial to building enduring businesses that generate stronger growth
The C-suite must adopt a whole-brain approach to leadership and secure
the future of their companies through:
1. Addressing the skills gap: Changing the mix of leadership
skills at the top of companies will help address the current skills gap.
C-suite leaders recognize this need for change, with nine in 10 C-suite
executives already taking action by using organic and inorganic ways to
tackle the problem. Over half (55%) of companies surveyed are already
re-skilling C-suite members, and 46% are bringing in new talent from
outside their organization to address the challenge.
2. Relinquishing some traditional leadership: Harnessing the
power of the Pathfinder group is essential. By embracing them, allowing
their voices to be heard and insights acted upon, the C-suite will gain
allies and re-credential their leadership. By leveraging these natural
agents of change, companies will benefit significantly as Pathfinders
are two times more likely to be motivated to give their best to their
employer, and twice as likely to choose a more expensive brand because
they prefer what it stands for.
3. Driving change deep and wide: Proactively ingraining
data-led and human-centered skills into the leadership of organizations
is crucial to longevity and competitiveness.
The C-suite must build these balanced skills and use them at both the
organizational and individual level. This will enable senior executive
teams to leverage a whole brain approach to solve higher value problems
that today’s combinatorial effects of disruption present.
To find out more about the report, visit www.accenture.com/whole-brain-leadership.
Join the conversation at @AccentureStrat #CompetitiveAgility
About the research
The Whole-Brain Leadership: The New Rules of Engagement for the
C-suite report from Accenture
Strategy, interviewed 200 C-suite executives across France, Germany,
Italy, Spain, UK and US, surveyed more than 11,000 employees and
consumers in China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom
and the United States with in person focus groups in Spain, UK and US.
The study found that leadership teams that actively acquire, deploy,
demonstrate and embed diversified whole-brain thinking across the
organization fare better financially than those that don’t.
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