C-Suite Must Engage an Emerging Powerful Group of Stakeholders with a New Approach to Leadership, Accenture Study Finds

Originally Published on Accenture.com

“Whole-brain’ skills critical to leading in the face of the combinatorial effects of disruption”

NEW YORK; June 5, 2019 – 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.

The ‘Whole-Brain 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 Strategy.

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 and profitability.”


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