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How business leaders can persevere through uncertainty

Today’s leaders are facing unprecedented challenges: ongoing pandemic-related disruptions, geopolitical conflicts, economic volatility, banking sector instability and more. Amid all this uncertainty, business innovators are being asked to transform their organizations and find new growth opportunities. That requires confidence and ingenuity, which isn’t an easy combination when the global economic outlook is foggy and every decision seems increasingly significant. 

EY has pulse-checked CEOs and top entrepreneurs to find their greatest concerns.*

*Source: EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, October 2022. Throughout the past six months.

Rather than focus on the unpredictable, leaders must focus on the things they can control.

Photographic portrait of David Heath
We’re living in an incredibly dynamic environment. I look at the three buckets that are in my care within my business specifically: It’s my customers, it’s my employees, and it’s the community I’m serving. Whenever I put those three groups at the center of every decision and look at the impact of those decisions through their lens … nine times out of 10, it leads me to the best decision possible.
David Heath
CEO and cofounder, Bombas; Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2022 National Award winner

Three keys to successful leadership today

sunrise business meeting in modern conference room

Today’s top entrepreneurs, innovators and thought leaders at the Strategic Growth Forum® discussed ways of addressing an uncertain future with confidence. The EY organization also conducted timely pulse surveys to see what’s on leaders’ minds.

Here’s what they had to say about leading through adversity.

  • 1. Be customer-centric

    Like businesses, consumers are also facing disruption fatigue — first with the pandemic, then supply chain issues, and now inflation and a possible recession. Their expectations have changed, and they are watching their wallets. To drive growth during uncertainty, business leaders need to respond to consumers’ changing needs and values by pivoting messaging, pricing, product offerings or channels.

    According to the October 2022 EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, business leaders are reshaping their operations to engage customers:

    Photographic portrait of Ravi Saligram
    Innovation starts with consumer insights and foresight, and asking, ‘Is it meaningful to the consumer?’ Everyone can build a better mousetrap, but if there are no mice around, then why build a mousetrap? Next, it’s about getting customer collaboration. Is your new product at the right price point? Yes, innovations are great ideas, but if they’re not profitable, that’s a problem.
    Ravi Saligram
    CEO, Newell Brands
  • 2. Lead with empathy

    Times of adversity are often the true test of an organization’s culture, purpose and values. During volatile times, high-growth companies rely on effective hiring and retention to fuel their ambitions. It’s critical for leaders not only to shore up corporate culture and purpose, but also to lead with empathy and inclusion to keep employees engaged and to build trust.

    Culture is leading the conversation:

    Workforce retention is one of the top two priorities for business leaders in the next six to 12 months.

    Source: 2022 Strategic Growth Forum exit poll

    Source: EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® alumni survey, August 2022

    Source: 2022 EY US Generation Survey, October 2022 

    Photographic portrait of Anouck Gotlib
    It’s one of my personal missions to make the workplace into a place where people want to come in. It starts with your culture, [your] DNA — but it can’t just be buzzwords. It starts at the top. If I’m not happy to come to work, why would anyone else be happy to come to work?
    Anouck Gotlib
    CEO, Belgian Boys; Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ Class of 2021
  • 3. Act decisively

    Leaders must act decisively now to navigate new complexities or risk being left behind. Those who invest wisely in the short term and with a clear sense of mission, especially in areas of technology and digitalization, will see long-term value and increased resiliency in the future.

    Uncertainty doesn’t mean stagnancy, according to the October 2022 EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey

    Photographic portrait of Gregory Daco
    We still have to grow. We have to think about opportunities. It’s about building resilience and adaptability in this new environment. We can either hide our heads in the ground, or we can be proactive, understand the uncertainty, and take advantage of it.
    Gregory Daco
    EY-Parthenon Chief Economist, Strategy and Transactions, Ernst & Young LLP

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