In the wake of COVID-19, organizations are coming to grips with a new—and in some cases transformed—shape of work. The challenges of 2020 accelerated essential conversations about how we work and how we define and measure success. Smart organizations are using this moment to reflect on and reshape their business model, culture, and goals.

An organization’s ability to adapt to the new shape of work is only as good as its leadership. The challenges of the future still require traditional leadership competencies such as business acumen, strategic thinking, and leading change. But we find four attributes are especially important to fostering purpose-driven organizations, and achieving sustainable performance.


These leadership capabilities should be increasingly emphasized by Boards, CEOs, and CHROs in leader selection, development, executive rewards, and succession planning: 


  • Emotional intelligence - authentic caring, empathy, and the ability to connect emotionally with a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Digital savvy – accelerating the digitalization of work, product design, and the use of technology to enable new business models.
  • Inclusive social responsibility - taking a broader view of business strategy and leadership style, designed for longer-term sustainability.
  • Adaptability – adapting behavior and approach in response to changing circumstances. 

Some of these capabilities are innate. Some are developable. Of course, not every leader needs to excel in every one of these attributes as well as traditional leadership competencies. Emerging leaders with all of these nuanced capabilities are rare. Therefore, organizations should think of leadership as a team sport, where a blend of outstanding individual competencies elevates the overall performance of entire business or functional leadership teams.


"To bring a company forward, organizations must understand the greater purpose of what they are doing. You need results to deliver a successful future, but you must begin by finding a balance of empathy and economics—of caring and maximizing impact."


– Martine Ferland, CEO


Download the full article where we review the four top leadership qualities critical to the future of work in more detail and discuss the specific governance and implementation actions to improve day-to-day behavior and outcomes at all levels of the organization.

David Jackson
David Jackson

Partner in Mercer’s US Talent and Strategy business

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