Ask executives about the state of the economy and the business environment most would agree that they are operating in a world that is becoming more complex and more difficult to do business. The majority agree that the uncertainty of the moment has eroded the trust between business leaders and other stakeholders. Until recently, it was widely accepted that a company’s primary responsibility was to create financial value for its shareholders.
On April 19, 2019, the Business Roundtable released a stunning statement:
[The] Business Roundtable…announced the release of a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporations signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.
The role of business in society has changed which means that the C-Suite’s role in society has changed. C-Suite Executives are intergral players in the broader ecosystem and as such have a voice, and even a responsibility, to act.
Executive responsibility and accountably calls for a human-centered approach internally and externally. Research specialists Lisa Drier, David Nabarro and Jane Nelson refer to these new leaders as Systems Leaders.
“System leaders apply an unusual combination of skills and attributes to mobilize large-scale action for systems change. Like many leaders, they tend to be smart, ambitious visionaries with strong skills in management and execution. Unlike traditional leaders, they are often humble, good listeners, and skilled facilitators who can successfully engage stakeholders with highly divergent priorities and perspectives. Systems leaders see their role as catalysing, enabling and supporting widespread action – rather than occupying the spotlight themselves.”
The distributed workforce will test the C-Suites’ ability to adapt to the new role of the Systems Leader. Social Media will expose the C-Suite Executives who cannot make the pivot from Corporate Leaders to Systems Leaders who run their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders.