future of business leadership


The future of business leadership

Socially responsible leadership in an age of discontinuity

Business as usual? Likely not. Over the next decade, businesses will experience several major discontinuities that will likely reframe leaders’ perspectives and inform actions that sustain growth and shape a better future in the years ahead. Now is the time to act boldly.


History is in motion. Over the past decade, we have witnessed extraordinary and foundational shifts. Today, as the pandemic hopefully transitions to a manageable endemic status, many business leaders are naturally preparing for the future of business post-COVID. But we should also prepare for continued seismic change ahead, as business continues to navigate through an era of profound discontinuity. What will the future of business leadership hold?

This paper anticipates five of the most critical discontinuities we believe lie ahead and suggests several new priorities leaders should embrace to help secure sustained success and shape a better future for us all.

The future of business leadership

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Five discontinuities ahead

Bold action will be required from business and other leaders, as we endeavor to forge a shared future that is productive and sustainable, meritocratic and equitable, profitable and purposeful, logical and human-centric, and competitive but also deeply collaborative.

Forging a better future

The five discontinuities outlined above are reshaping the landscape of the future of business in ways that are deep, structural, and enduring. There is no guaranteed playbook to provide instructions on how to lead through the coming decade, nor any simple set of rules to follow. Business leaders should not be passive observers of this whirlwind of change. Rather, we must be active participants, preparing our organizations for a new era of human-centered business to help shape a better world.

The ability to lead through these disruptive dynamics will likely be the most important and differentiating leadership skill of the next decade. This will require redoubling our focus on three key areas:

  1. Intentionality – To provide direction on our choices to proactively make a positive difference.
  2. Integration – To maximize impact by aligning our businesses both internally and externally with other businesses and stakeholders; and by ensuring that short-term priorities and investments are directly informed by longer-term vision.
  3. Learning – To sustain success through increasing the nuance of business leaders’ thinking, building the muscles required for change, and adapting to mirror the complexity of a profoundly changing environment.

A time to be bold

In the coming decade, businesses will likely have to change even more frequently, more rapidly, and more dramatically than in the past. We should break with previous orthodoxies and mindsets to imagine, experiment, and scale rapidly in new opportunity spaces with a renewed focus on our societal and environmental impacts as well as our profits. We should act boldly, in ways that are neither comfortable nor familiar.

Almost 8 billion of us now occupy a unique, nurturing, and generous planet: We currently run the very real risk of simply overwhelming it, failing to live peacefully together. Our shared future must be productive and sustainable, meritocratic and equitable, profitable and purposeful, logical and human-centric, and competitive but also deeply collaborative. Embracing renewed intentionality, integration, and learning in our businesses, we ourselves will need to draw upon our core humanity to lead with courage, empathy, and creativity as we help bring this future about.

time to be bold

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