In the statement that follows, Dominic Barton, Global managing director, McKinsey & Company, introduces one of the most valuable issues of The McKinsey Quarterly published thus far. To read the issue and check out other resources, please click here.
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This issue of McKinsey Quarterly examines the changing nature of leadership. Front and center are reflections from six diverse global leaders—Josef Ackermann, formerly of Deutsche Bank; Carlos Ghosn of Renault-Nissan; Moya Greene of Royal Mail Group; Ellen Kullman of DuPont; President Shimon Peres of Israel; and Daniel Vasella of Novartis.
They provide firsthand perspectives on how different everything feels from just a decade ago: the environment is more uncertain, the pace quicker and unrelenting, the forces at work more complex, and the scrutiny of their actions more intense. The ways in which these leaders confront today’s challenges are fascinating, and I have tried, along with my colleagues Andrew Grant and Michelle Horn, to amplify and extend their thinking about the critical skills leaders need now.
One of the primary forces buffeting leaders today is the rapid rebalancing of global economic activity from developed to emerging markets—a tectonic shift that presents both leadership and organizational challenges. In a series of articles, Martin Dewhurst, Suzanne Heywood, and several of their colleagues in McKinsey’s organization practice first frame the tensions facing global companies as their footprints grow in emerging markets and then present ideas for responding by improving the effectiveness of organizational design and talent management. In addition, IESE Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat, an alumnus of McKinsey’s London office, debunks some common myths about what it means to create good global leaders.
Uncertain times place a premium on strategic leadership as companies seek to stay ahead of emerging opportunities, respond quickly to unexpected threats, and make timely decisions.
In “Managing the strategy journey,” my colleagues Chris Bradley, Lowell Bryan, and Sven Smit suggest that companies can respond more effectively to rapid change by boosting the frequency of their strategic dialogue while broadening the group of senior executives engaged in it. At many companies, expanding the strategic-leadership team means some executives will need help honing their skills as strategists. In “Becoming more strategic: Three tips for any executive,” Michael Birshan and Jayanti Kar offer some advice on how to do so. Harvard Business School professor Cynthia Montgomery also weighs in, distilling more than three decades of experience to describe the role of strategists as true business leaders.
It should come as no surprise that we look for strong leadership in uncertain times. We hope that the depth and breadth of content in this issue of the Quarterly provide food for thought and actionable advice as the need for leaders with the right mix of skills, character, and courage continues to increase.