If you're a CEO, you're about to get busy in 2016. The position is more complex than ever, and you're going to need a broader, deeper skill set, says Stephen Miles, CEO of the leadership advisory firm The Miles Group.
"The incredibly fast-paced and demanding market means that leaders must take on different roles to address the needs of multiple stakeholders - and that's not easy," he says.
Investors, boards, employees and the public will expect CEOs to have expertise in a wide range of areas. Here are 10 hats that Miles says CEOs will be wearing in 2016:
1. Strategic Multitasker. The biggest challenge for CEOs in 2016 will be delivering on the company's core business while transforming it to be relevant in the future, says Miles. That will require maintaining a core base of revenues while adapting to changing customer preferences, technology shifts and more.
2. Futurist. We've entered a world in which even the best and the brightest cannot predict the biggest things happening around us. "Crude oil dropping below $40, the Arab Spring, currency fluctuations, and what Russia and China will do next," says Miles. Even if CEOs cannot predict events and trends, the market will still demand that they're prepared before things happen so they can immediately react to surprising events.
3. Tech CEO. Whatever sector you're in, know that technology is the future of your business. "Tech pundits have been saying for at least the last 10 years that every company is a technology company - and this is now becoming a reality," says Miles. "Every CEO is now a 'tech CEO,' or at least must act like one. Domino's is a tech company that happens to deliver pizza."
4. Growth Hacker. "Since 2008, we have been trying to respond to the world in crisis by focusing on taking out cost - but where is the growth?" asks Miles. It's time to throw out the playbook where CEOs are bottom-line cost-out executives. The market now demands a different skill set for growth, and CEOs must help create a whole new agenda for his or her company, he says.
5. Activist Investor Handler. Activist investors are redefining the landscape and what it means to be a CEO and a board member, says Miles. "They are very smart, well read, and usually have a good perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing a company," he says. "If CEOs fight them hard, they usually do so at their peril."
That means CEOs must figure out how to best engage with them as well as when to hold their ground on what is truly unreasonable.
6. Inspiring Storyteller. Even in a data-driven world, nothing is more powerful than a story, and leaders will need to define how their audience is reading them. "When a company is on the downside of a curve, a CEO must offer hope that is compelling both inside and outside the company," says Miles. "Simply saying 'it is really hard' and 'we are working hard and doing our best' is not enough. Developing a compelling strategic narrative becomes the bridge from today's reality to tomorrow's opportunities."
7. Inclusive Leader. Four distinct generations now make up the workforce, and each differs in what they value and the way in which they want to be led. Leaders must be good at developing and leading inclusive teams. "The notion of inclusive leadership is critical," says Miles. "The modern CEO needs to have the range to their leadership style to have the highest-performing, diverse and inclusive leadership team and company."
8. Crisis Manager. As a CEO, you will be tested by events inside and outside your company, and how you respond to that stress will define you as a leader.
"Look at the contrast between BP's Tony Hayward and General Motor's Mary Barra," says Miles. "Fortune called Barra 2014's 'crisis manager of the year,' while Hayward complained 'I would like my life back.' And he got it."
Leaders need to understand that their response will define their leadership in a strong and powerful way or it will run them out of the company.
9. Information Seeker. The days of being a high-performing company that is focused internally are gone, says Miles; the world demands a CEO who looks outside and brings new insight and ideas back into the company, challenging everything it does.
"Undervaluing or discounting the external perspective - no matter how foreign it may seem - often ends badly for a CEO or the company itself," says Miles.
10. Board Engager. The days of six easy board meetings per year are gone, says Miles. Directors are working harder than ever, and the issues facing companies and boards have gotten more much complex.
"The number-one way a CEO gets fired is by losing control of his or her agenda, and the boardroom is typically where this happens," he says. "Directors are taking action faster than ever before, and they are coming to meetings prepared and interested in digging into the issues with management. CEOs must be prepared for this, and engage with the board at a much deeper level in this new era of board governance."