Navigating the CEO Journey: Insights from the Spring 2024 Next Generation CEO Program

CEO Spotlight Series

CEO speakers illuminate the path to the top for Next Gen CEOs, stressing versatility, authenticity, and balance in what can be a demanding, yet rewarding job.

There’s extraordinary pressure on CEOs to get things right – even in the first hours on the job. New CEOs are often expected to set the tone for their tenure after only a couple of weeks, if not before they get the role– in the hopes of driving sustainable growth.

During the Spring 2024 Next Generation CEO Program, convened by Deloitte's Chief Executive Program, aspiring CEOs gathered for three days of discussions led by twelve current chief executives to discuss journeys to the top leadership role, and challenges that can arise once they’re in charge.

The need for prospective CEOs to draw on their versatility and authenticity as they gear up for this journey was one of the key messages that came up in discussions. To help ensure aspiring CEOs are ready to respond under the most challenging circumstances, many CEOs emphasized that it is crucial to be aware of changes on the horizon, have honest conversations about the reality of the chief executive role, and most importantly, stay true to their values.

Many of the participants discussed the drive, determination, and necessary experience to achieve this balance in order to propel them to the CEO’s office. Yet others expressed some misgivings about the top job and the personal toll leadership can take. Here are some of the compelling insights current CEOs shared with the next generation.

Start defining the future vision for your organization, now

“Start thinking about strategy now, even within your current roles. Think about opportunities and communicate them to your CEO so you are formulating your strategic mindset before you become CEO or become part of the process.” – Next Gen CEO program speaker

While incoming CEOs may take cues from their predecessor, the vision they set for the organization should be theirs and no one else’s. A well-defined vision and strategy are important – and need to balance the organization’s values with their own core purpose and authenticity. Their vision and strategy also should be balanced against what may happen in reality – so they can be better positioned for periods of crisis and upheaval.

One of the themes that emerged around planning for the future was that pragmatic realities outweigh abstract musings about the future. As incoming leaders will be inheriting companies that are already managing many challenges such as tech advances, geopolitical disruption, and changing consumer expectations. They should find ways to be creative, adaptive, and resilient to meet these challenges.

While there’s value in aligning the functions across their organization to achieve its goals, aspiring CEOs should think of ways to ground their ambition by continually refreshing their organization’s strategic plans.

One leader made the point that the destination will likely look very different from the imagined journey upon taking on the role. To that end, it’s important to build optionality and flexibility to help achieve most of a vision while staying open to opportunities that come up.

Novel opportunities for growth

Nearly every CEO I speak to is thinking about practical steps they can take to achieve sustainable growth, to help ensure they have the teams, technology, and perspective to build resiliency in the face of a growing list of disruptors,”

- Rich Nanda, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, US Offering Portfolio Leader

Many CEOs say they’re looking for ways to optimize operating costs to stimulate organizational growth. In the Winter 2024 Fortune/Deloitte CEO survey, a majority of CEOs (57%) surveyed say they plan to embed new technologies into their businesses in search of growth. A similar share (56%) say they’ve already leveraged Generative AI to boost efficiencies.

Maintain your authenticity – for your sake, and for your team’s

It's an era to be a real leader, a real person. Be yourself. People will respect you more for that.

– Next Gen CEO program speaker

CEO speakers also stressed the value of solidifying personal purpose and values. People generally want to see that CEOs are actually living the values they profess. That kind of passion tends to be contagious, as leaders who operate with purpose in mind may do so with optimism that radiates throughout an organization.

It’s not just important for CEOs to specifically articulate what they’re passionate about with their teams, however. Incoming CEOs should tell their board what they need. After all, the board entrusted them to do the job. To help maintain that trust, CEOs should be upfront about their requirements.

Understand what it truly means to be CEO and spend time thinking about why and if you want the job

“If you aren’t nervous about the scale of the job, then you’re probably not thinking clearly about the scale of the job.” – Next Gen CEO program speaker

Many of the leaders in our session stressed that ambition and ego couldn't sustain them over time. Rather, they needed a higher purpose or desire to make an impact.

We also heard a lot of discussion about the profound life changes that come with being a CEO. For instance, it’s typical to be wary: Many of our participants expressed uncertainty or downright reluctance about taking on the CEO job. This tells us that CEOs, boards, search professionals, and others in a position to help future CEOs become successful in the role may need stronger alignment to understand the challenges involved.

It can also be a lonely job. The CEO role is often characterized by a lack of work-life balance and feelings of loneliness.

Of course, aspiring CEOs can take steps to help ensure their own journey is more sustainable – being transparent about what they need, being comfortable with the fact that they can evolve, and investing in relationships are some of those steps. After all, those meaningful connections can sustain them, and the organizations they lead, during the most difficult times. Despite all of this, the CEOs all expressed a love for their role and, especially, the impact they made through their work.

Leadership Next

One of the highlights of the Spring 2024 Next Generation CEO Program was a live recording of Fortune’s weekly Leadership Next podcast series. Alan Murray, CEO Fortune Media, and Judy Marks, Chair and CEO of Otis Worldwide Corporation, reflected on Marks’ five-year tenure as the CEO of Otis. She joined the company as an external hire during a period of significant transformation for the organization – underscoring the value of resiliency, tenacity, and reliance on a trusted group of people.

Now in its fifth season, the Leadership Next podcast, sponsored by Deloitte, focuses on weekly conversations with leading executives.

Listen on Apple Podcast Listen on Google Podcast Listen on Spotify Listen on Souncloud Listen on Pandora

About the Next Generation CEO Program

Deloitte’s Next Generation CEO Program is intended to be a transformative experience that helps aspiring executives prepare for the role of CEO through experiential learning, networking, personal reflection, and action planning. Learn more about the program.

Image Captions

Figure 1: Rich Nanda, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Co-Dean of the Next Gen Program offers closing remarks.

Figure 2: Brett Weinberg, Experience Director for the Chief Executive Program and Associate Dean of the Next Gen Program, speaks to participants.

Figure 3: Judy Marks, Chair and CEO of Otis Worldwide Corporation speaking at the live recording during the Spring 2024 Next Generation CEO program.


Benjamin Finzi
Managing Director
Chief Executive Program
Deloitte Services LP

Morgan Clark
Senior Manager
Chief Executive Program
Deloitte Services LP

Elizabeth Molacek, PhD
Research and Insights Manager
Chief Executive Program
Deloitte Services LP

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