There’s no denying that the past 12 months have been challenging for businesses of all kinds. Just when they thought they were getting over the fallout of the Covid pandemic, war and inflation in Ukraine ensued at a pace not seen in a generation. The world they thought they knew was gone, and suddenly all the talk of Vuca (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) by consultants and management gurus feels all too real. Whether you call it a permanent crisis, multiple crises, or the perfect storm, the fact is that leaders have to deal with a variety of problems at the same time (many of which they have never experienced before).
The latest annual survey by HLB, a global network of independent professional accountancy firms and business consultants, released this week, sheds light on how businesses around the world are coping with this new reality. With nearly 600 responses from more than 60 countries, the study examines some of the key leadership behaviors required during the crisis, the types of actions CEOs should prioritize in 2023, and the benefits of long-term thinking for future success.
The report identifies flexibility as a core attribute of leaders at this time. Enterprise agility is required in areas as diverse as talent acquisition, digital capability development, and supply chain management. In a sign that executives are struggling to find current operational efficiencies while deciding how to innovate and grow for the future, nearly half are focusing on both short-term and long-term priorities.
Integrity is the number two leadership behavior. Leaders must be credible to build trust among stakeholders, with 69% of survey respondents agreeing that they clearly define and communicate goals.
The next most important characteristic identified for successful leaders in times of crisis is accountability. Leaders involved in the HLB study appear to see progress on increasingly important environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles as a key factor. They are making good progress towards a more purpose-driven business strategy and are looking to redefine ESG goals. Of the survey respondents, 15% claimed to be fully purpose driven and 37% attempted to meet broader stakeholder expectations in their ESG objectives. However, the data also shows that not all leaders are as committed, with 40% of respondents only acting as required by regulators and 8% ignoring ESG entirely, rather than using it as an opportunity to innovate and grow.
More than half of businesses are also looking to boost growth by adopting new technologies to increase productivity. Respondents identified artificial intelligence, cloud and renewable energy technologies as the most important areas for businesses over the next five years.
However, 82% of respondents identified inflation as the biggest risk facing their business, while 35% identified talent acquisition as their main weakness to address, illustrating the need to continue looking at the here and now and planning for the future. the next few months.
HLB Global CEO Marco Donzelli said in a press statement: “The pandemic, coupled with the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine, has challenged companies’ resilience and agility, with many having to quickly adapt their strategies, business models and way of working. It’s clear from the research that stakeholders are demanding that companies navigate the way forward with an agile mindset based on clearly defined objectives and a strong focus on ESG issues.”
It is also clear that business leaders, just like government leaders, must stop viewing the events that hit them as once-in-a-lifetime occurrences. Obviously, it is difficult to predict the shape of each crisis, but it is not difficult to say that more crises are coming. Just as storms or heat waves that used to be classified as “once in a hundred years” occur with increasing frequency, our combined world seems to be seeing previously unusual events, such as energy price spikes or financial crises, appearing with increasing frequency. more and more likely. Despite calls for greater self-sufficiency in recent months, the world remains hyperconnected and leaders need to keep a close eye on trends and developments that could bring further shocks.