One of the most striking findings of this year’s EY Ireland CEO Imperative Survey related to the key characteristics of the most successful CEOs. Top of the list for Irish respondents to the survey was the ability to drive a transformative mindset across the company.
That may well be a reflection of the tumultuous events of the past year which saw many established business norms swept away. Transformation ceased to be an option; it became an imperative with CEOs forced to act swiftly before being overtaken by events. Businesses had to pivot rapidly and adopt new business models better suited to the fundamentally changed environment.
On a very positive note, the survey results indicate that Irish CEOs are ready to embrace these new realities with an incredible 84% anticipating a significant investment in new technology in the next 12 months and 81% expecting to commence a new and comprehensive transformation initiative.
Human characteristics featured very strongly on the list of key characteristics for effective CEOs. According to Irish CEOs, the second most important trait is the ability to understand the customer through direct experience. Next on the list was leading with compassion.
These results tie in strongly with the finding that 87% of Irish CEOs believe putting humans (employees, customers, other stakeholders) at the centre of decision-making will be a core value driver in future. 75% of them believe empathy and other soft skills will come to the fore as key management capabilities.
In this light, there should be little surprise that “human centred” was ranked as the number one characteristic of successful enterprises.
That result resonates with another quite striking finding which shows that Irish CEOs are looking beyond the balance sheet in their value assessments. A quite remarkable 100% of Irish CEOs believe it is very or somewhat likely that intangibles will represent a significantly greater share of enterprise value in future.
Irish CEOs are also taking quite a positive and confident view of the future. None of the CEOs surveyed anticipated lower growth in the next three years than in the past three. 53% believe growth will be moderately or significantly higher while the remaining 47% expect it to be about the same.
This may suggest a high level of confidence among Irish CEOs in the ability of the global economy to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic with growth opportunities arising for those companies best prepared to avail of them. That more positive view aligns with the findings that just 6% of Irish CEOs anticipate a significant head count reduction in their organisation in the next 12 months while only 34% expect to see a significant cost reduction programme during the same period.
Taken together, these findings point to Irish business being well positioned to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and to thrive in the very different environment which is sure to emerge in the wake of the pandemic.