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Executives failing to lead and maintain competitive edge

Most executives around the world are out of touch with what it takes to effectively lead, and what it takes for their businesses to maintain a competitive edge in the digital economy.

This is according to a new study by Cognizant, the IT services company, in conjunction with MIT Sloan Management Review.

Key findings in the research include:

Only 12% of respondents strongly agree their own business leaders have the right mindsets to lead them forward, and only 9% agree that their organisation has the skills at the top to thrive in the digital economy.

Only 13% strongly agree their organisations are prepared to compete in increasingly digitally-driven markets and economies.

A large majority, 71%, of respondents believe that they are personally prepared to lead in the digital economy. The same group scores significantly lower when asked whether they possess specific digital skills, such as using data analytics to influence their decision-making (55%) or advocating for the use of machine learning technologies in their organisations’ operations (50%).

While 82% agree the new economy will need “digitally savvy” leaders, less than 10% strongly agree their organisations have the right leadership to thrive in the new digital economy.

Just 40% believe that their organisations are taking the necessary steps to build robust digital leader pipelines.

Cognizant director of the Center for the Future of Work and coauthor of the report, Benjamin Pring, says, “A generation of leaders in large companies are out of sync, out of tune, and out of touch with their workforces, markets, and competitive landscapes. What got them to their current exalted status won't be effective much longer - unless they take swift action

“Allowing unprepared senior executives with outdated skills and attitudes to stick around forces next-generation, high-potential leaders to move on to new pastures, which harms morale and ultimately shifts the organisation further away from where market demand is heading.”

Cognizant senior vice president, global head of talent management and leadership and another author of the report, Carol Cohen, says, “Our experience suggests that the most advanced leadership teams are those committed to developing these 3Es in their organisations.

“A key to success is artfully introducing new leadership approaches that particularly appeal to a new generation of employees while at the same time honoring the time-tested behaviors and attributes that inspire trust, build a sense of community, and motivate employees to improve performance.”

The study, titled ‘The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age: Reimagining What It Takes to Lead’ was based on a survey of 4,394 global executives from over 120 countries, 27 executive interviews, and focus group exchanges with next-gen global emerging leaders.

Unveiled during the World Economic Forum, the study uncovers three categories of existing leadership behaviors, the four distinct mindsets that will help shape leadership in the digital economy and provides recommendations for a new leadership playbook.

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