PwC Survey reveals what today’s CEOs can learn from tomorrow’s leaders

  • 85% of tomorrow’s leaders feel that business success will be redefined by more than just financial profit
  • 69% believe the global education system is failing to fully equip students with skills for the digital age
  • 60% of young leaders believe economic growth will improve over the next 12 months, compared to only 23% of NZ CEOs

Next generation leaders are more optimistic than today’s CEOs about economic growth, but pessimistic about education and our ability to fully equip students with skills for the digital age.

These are some of the key findings from a new report by PwC in collaboration with AIESEC, one of the world’s leading international student organisations, which contrasts current and next generation leaders’ views on growth, education, technology and business responsibilities.

The research compares the results from PwC’s New Zealand CEO Survey 2016 with the views of young AIESEC leaders from around the world and examines where they agree and disagree, what the implications are for companies looking to attract the best young talent and what today’s CEOs can learn from those who will most likely succeed them.

Tomorrow’s leaders are optimists as well as realists

Richard Day, Partner at PwC New Zealand says: “For me, one of the most noticeable findings from the AIESEC results is the degree of confidence young leaders have, especially in economic growth where 60% believe it will improve over the next 12 months, compared to only 23% of NZ CEOs. This might be the optimism of youth, but could also reflect a fresh take on the need to constantly innovate and embrace change, where the younger generation sees opportunity, while current leaders see increased challenge, cost and risk.”

While they are more optimistic than CEOs in many respects, AIESEC respondents also believe that organisations should be more concerned about cyber threats, shifts in consumer behaviour and a lack of public trust in business.

There’s a clear difference in how the two groups perceive risk. Reflecting the struggle many business leaders face in shifting from a short term to long term outlook, CEOs ranked their top three concerns as over-regulation, availability of key skills and exchange rate volatility. By contrast, AIESEC respondents took a more long term view, believing CEOs should be more concerned about issues such as social instability, environmental damage and unemployment.

“While tomorrow’s leaders are concerned about an organisation's financial performance, what is equally, if not more, important to them is whether an organisation lives up to its corporate values and is actively investing in a better future for all of us. Employers should bear this in mind and be able to demonstrate and communicate that broader sense of purpose and value when recruiting the next generation of leaders,” says Richard.

Education is key in shaping and preparing young people for leadership

Alongside the questions included in the CEO Survey, AIESEC respondents were also asked about their views of what defines leadership, how to nurture it and how it’s changing.

These young global leaders are clearly believers in nurture not nature: 64% said the education system is the single most important factor in shaping and preparing young people for leadership roles in the future. Despite this, 69% believe the education system in their country is failing to fully equip students with the skills they need to survive and thrive in the digital age. The key skills gaps in the education system were identified as global experience, communication, giving and receiving feedback and ethics.

Richard says that “while on the face of it this may be a worrying reflection of the global education system, what it does indicate is that there is an opportunity for businesses either to help governments and universities fill these gaps or to consider supplementing them with targeted in-house development offerings themselves. There is clearly potential for businesses to develop long term sustainable relationships and partnerships with the education sector to collectively grow tomorrow’s leaders.”

What it takes to attract future leaders

The survey shows that there are four key character traits to consider if you want to be an employer of choice for tomorrow’s leaders: they are optimists but realists, they care about social and environmental issues, they want to work for companies that have similar values to their own and they value emotional qualities as well as intellectual capabilities.

“An interesting picture of the future workplace emerges when you consider that these young leaders say the top outcomes businesses should help deliver are a skilled and diverse workforce and high employment levels. They seem much more focussed on values-based leadership and are attracted to workplaces that put an emphasis on culture, behaviour and general wellbeing. The question is, are we ready for them and this new model of leadership?”

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