For our fourth annual Global CEO Outlook, we reached out to 1,300 CEOs of large companies from around the world to get their views of the highest-priority opportunities and most daunting challenges they and their businesses face. As in prior years, we’ve seen how quickly the world is changing for today’s business leaders, and what this means for how they are leading and growing their organizations.

Exploring a broad range of business drivers, risks and pain points, this year’s report offers insights into how new and evolving forces are continuing to raise the bar for CEOs in all countries and all sectors.

Key findings

Growth headwinds

CEOs operate in a connected world where events can quickly snowball and the risk agenda is constantly changing. A wait-and-see approach to these issues is not an option. CEOs will need to play a leading role in cyber security, particularly in terms of vulnerabilities in their extended ecosystem of suppliers and partners. While they cannot be political players, they need to put geopolitics on the agenda. This is so that they — and their board — understand the implications of geopolitical risk for their finance, business and operating models and for the growth of their business. To maximize growth, they also need to be in tune with generational shifts. Tomorrow’s critical consumer cohort, Millennials, will expect organizations to understand their priorities and values. CEOs play an essential role in pivoting their organizations to the consumers of tomorrow in order to seize every opportunity to grow.

Driving realistic growth

CEOs feel good about the macroeconomic environment: they are confident about global and industry growth prospects. However, that does not mean they are setting aggressive revenue targets. In fact, they are playing a patient game, predicting pragmatic rather than bullish growth. CEOs recognize that in a digital age, their organizations still depend on traditional revenue streams. As they look to replace them with new growth engines, they recognize that traditional sources will decline and need to be replaced. CEOs play a critical role in driving business model innovation and growth by challenging the status quo in their organizations to stimulate new thinking and shift the innovation equation.

Making digital a personal crusade

As they look to drive growth in a digital age, CEOs are leading the transformation agenda. But to ensure their long-term digital strategy does not get derailed by pressure to deliver short-term results, they must manage the expectations of key stakeholders. Working with boards and other stakeholders, they can map different scenarios for the future of the business and set new key performance indicators. Making the most of their customer data will be a critical element of their growth strategies, and with the public’s trust in institutions waning, CEOs are taking personal responsibility for safeguarding data. Their employees will also be looking to CEOs for guidance in a world where AI and automation will replace both manual and more specialized roles. CEOs need to lead the workforce transition, and create a compelling and candid narrative for their employees about what the future holds.

Putting instinct over data

In an environment where customer demands are constantly changing, new technologies are emerging and new competitive threats are surfacing, acting with agility is the dominant currency of business. To achieve agility and move at digital speed, many organizations are investing in innovation networks and collaborations with startups. However, many are also failing to see results from those investments. CEOs need to focus on driving value from their networks and play a leadership role in overcoming critical barriers, such as cultural challenges. Agility is also about being able to spot new opportunities, and effectively using sophisticated data and analytics — including predictive and prescriptive analytics — will be key. High-performing CEOs will be those who can marry their experience and intuition with data-driven insight. With CEOs still prizing intuition over data-driven fact, leaders need to work with their insight teams to ensure that data and analytics efforts are focused on the most valuable opportunities and that the new forms of data that underpin their models can be trusted.

The 2018 Global CEO Outlook finds chief executives optimistic about the economy and excited by the growth opportunities offered by disruption. At the same time, CEOs are managing their exposure to a range of headwinds. Driving growth will require CEOs to combine equal amounts of resourcefulness and realism.

The Greek version of the CEO Outlook 2018 report can be downloaded from this location.

For the the Global CEO Outlook report please click the PDF link below.

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