Data-Driven Caregivers? Here’s What the C-Suite Could Look Like in 2021

These are just some of the predictions of 30 executives and thought leaders who were recently questioned by executive recruitment firm Russell Reynolds about what the future holds for senior leaders.

Some, like former Snapchat HR director Sara Sperling, expect new roles to be created that will revolve around defining and maintaining cultures that help companies adapt faster to change and compete more successfully for talent. Whether they’re called Chief Culture Officers or Chief People Officers, these individuals will essentially work closely with HR and marketing executives to ensure both employees and customers are happy.

Big data, meanwhile, will have an increasingly ubiquitous presence across most sectors, despite various studies recently indicating that companies aren’t using it properly yet.

“Without question, the executives of the future must have a strong foundation of data analytics and tech savviness to keep up.

“Our experts attest that big data is truly taking over the working world, and without question, the executives of the future must have a strong foundation of data analytics and tech savviness to keep up,” Russell Reynolds said.

Equally important, though, will be the need for softer skills, as leaders try to retain top talent. In fact, the participants suggested bosses having a beer with their underlings will no longer be enough. They’ll have to start acting like their bosom buddies, too.

That could mean taking an interest in employees’ physical, psychological, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. “Forward looking companies are creating a culture that is very open, collaborative, diverse, and also a lot of fun,” said Ranjan Goswami, vice president of sales at Delta Airlines and a survey participant. “There’s this belief that you can have fun while you work and it shouldn’t be a trade-off.”

Making work enjoyable could also mean making workplaces more egalitarian. Survey participants noticed a definite trend shaping the C-suite that involved a flattening of hierarchy. “It’s not cool to be the boss,” said Robert Kasier, president of Kaiser Leadership Solutions. “When you talk about leadership, millennials especially have a real hesitation almost as if, to them, being a leader means being bossy and outspoken and telling them what to do.”

To be sure, participants were also skeptical if a desire for less authority could indicate a lack of responsibility or accountability among younger workers.

“The best leaders will find balance here, comfortably leading more egalitarian teams, while also acting decisively when the situation calls for it,” Russell Reynolds said.

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Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

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