Eight Executive Leadership Trends For 2020 If you're the leader of a business, these are the trends you need to keep track of this year.

By Gavin Cheadle

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Global leadership is answering the call of a world that is demanding change. Change in the way business approaches three key things: trust, knowledge transfer, and cultural dynamics. Now in its fifth edition, the Eight Executive Trends for 2020 report by Page Executive, the executive search arm of global recruitment firm PageGroup, explores the new forms of leadership that stem from the idea of integrating transformation at every level in business. If you're the leader of a business, these are the trends you need to keep track of this year.


Today's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is much more than a number cruncher and analyst. As digitalization and automation reshape the working environment, new skills are increasingly important, in some cases nudging the harder edge of technical prowess to the side. CFOs are being summoned to build trust throughout the organization. Their transformative efforts are a unifying force between the market and the C-suite. Financial decisionmakers need to embrace disruption that focuses both on the short-term impact, as well as the long-term, to pilot companies to success. In today's rapidly transforming environment, CFOs must go beyond numbers to develop interpersonal skills, strategic leadership, and digital savvy. They must build trust, addressing current concerns like cybersecurity, while retaining their role as the "conscience" of the business.


More than sectorial knowledge and network, adaptation and innovation can make or break the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in today's tech-torqued environment. Decision makers and recruiters must look outside the traditional arena for new leadership that doesn't just follow, but drives, digital transformation. In today's world of rapid digital transformation, a successful CEO must embrace self-reinvention and upskilling. Shrewd decision-makers must understand what information is important to perform their job– and what isn't. Agile organization relies on more than methods and processes: investing in the right people is crucial. Savvy executive leaders must leverage tech to fulfil business needs, team ambitions and consumer demands.


The digitalized world has provided great opportunities to expand remote work and give senior leaders an exciting challenge: to create a culture and engagement from a distance, attracting and retaining the best talent, no matter where they are based. Leaders must build milestones and use key performance indicators to clarify expectations and help their team understand their roles and expectations. Regular in-person and one-to-one meetings must be held to take the team pulse, boost engagement, and get feedback– more distance means heightened communications to create that team feeling. Future leaders must strike a balance– they must spend time with the team to understand them, and also drive engagement from a distance.


A company's global mobility program is vital to support new business growth. When combined with insightful talent management, they can boost financial performance, employee engagement, succession planning, and talent retention, and bring value to companies everywhere. Recruiting globally delivers distinctive, dynamic leadership styles, vision, and experience, and facilitates vital knowledge transfer and know-how. At the same time, international assignments can be a fast-track for mobile leaders who want to broaden their portfolio and horizons. Leadership needs to understand and differentiate regional business practices and requirements to ensure cultural fit and longterm impact. Importantly, the local team needs to be part of the integration process to ensure that members gel wherever they are and wherever they come from.


To triumph in a global economy, smart small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are transforming their organizations, outlooks, and strategies to level the playing field with larger companies. Partnerships and collaboration with other enterprises and multinational corporations are empowering SMEs to not only stand their ground with heftier peers, but to leverage certain advantages over them, thanks to their versatility and resourcefulness. SME leaders must adopt a global mindset, do their homework on new markets, and factor in contingency plans. They must be prepared to make sweeping changes to the organizational structure, company culture, and behavior.


All companies need to focus on hiring future leaders, moving towards the new world, rather than waiting for it to come knocking at their door. Executives in the financial services sector must attract inquisitive, insightful new hires who bring tech know-how, people skills, and agility to the table, by highlighting the company's journey towards data and digital. Data is nothing without interpretation and vision, so hiring must take place across sectors to engage financial data scientists who can tell and sell a story across the whole enterprise. Additionally, discipline crossover must be made the norm, not the exception: reward the rebel spirit, and give feisty finance professionals a say in business direction, and a chance to shine. Leadership must focus on structure and cohesion across time zones and cultures, and consider mentoring to gel a multi-faceted, always-on team that can lead from any level.


Diversity is of far greater benefit to a company than generational rhetoric and stereotyping. If recruiters and employers can keep an open mind and an open door, they can harness the multiple advantages of multigenerational leadership. Companies are logically looking for the best talent to fill their leadership roles. Executive recruiters and the businesses they work with are making giant leaps in enriching company cultures and establishing diversity and inclusion by evolving what it means to talk about (and hire for) leadership profiles. Successfully integrating leaders of different generations means actively encouraging crossgenerational collaboration. Multigenerational advisory boards or resource groups where members exchange ideas and benefit from each other's unique skillsets can help banish bias and foster inclusivity.


Without an inclusive environment, diversity becomes unsustainable. Leaders are responsible for embedding effective inclusive cultures that attract, retain and engage top talent. An inclusive company culture allows each individual, regardless of background, to use their potential in the workplace and enable colleagues to do the same. Greater diversity equals greater capacity to attract and retain talent, a competitive edge coming through differing viewpoints, stronger productivity– and a better bottom line. However, managing a high-performing and diverse workforce requires daily commitment from the senior team.

Related: Sustainable Transformation Should Inspire Post-Pandemic Business Recovery

Gavin Cheadle

Partner, Page Executive Middle East

Gavin Cheadle is Partner at Page Executive, Middle East, which is focused on board and executive level recruitment across the region. 

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