The New Era of Leadership Report: Chief

54% of U.S. CEOs expect leadership to be more challenging in 2024 1 in 3 executives believe changing worker expectations and cybersecurity are the greatest challenges they will face this year 10% of executives say Generative AI will play a massive role for their company this year


Chief, the largest network of senior executive women, in collaboration with Wakefield Research, published a report on the greatest challenges C-Suite executives expect this year and the skills they believe will help them lead successfully in 2024 and beyond. The New Era of Leadership Report is based on a survey of 600 U.S. C-Suite executives at companies with a minimum of 500 employees. Three-quarters of respondents were men, and one-quarter were women, roughly representative of the current gender gap among high-level executives at S&P 100 companies1. Among its many insights, the report revealed that 54% of CEOs expect leadership to be more challenging in 2024.

AI and Shifting Worker Dynamics Among Top List of Executive Challenges

From the rise of AI to continued economic uncertainty, 51% of leaders agree that factors outside of their control will have a greater impact on their company’s success in 2024 than internal factors. The top five challenges they anticipated were almost equally divided among the below:

  • Changing worker expectations, including compensation and culture (33%)
  • Cybersecurity threats and data privacy concerns (32%)
  • Difficulty identifying and training the right talent (30%)
  • Keeping up with AI and other disruptive technologies (30%)
  • Maintaining productivity amid layoffs or hiring freezes (29%)

C-Suite Leaders Cite Navigating Burnout and Investing in Professional Development as Top Personal Obstacles

Executives are determined to keep up with the fast-paced challenges facing their organizations, though they are struggling to achieve results while minimizing stress, both for themselves and their employees. When asked about their top personal challenges in 2024, leaders cited the below:

  • Balancing career and personal life (41%)
  • Finding time for professional development (39%)
  • Motivating teams (37%)
  • Avoiding burnout (37%)

Notably, men find it slightly more challenging to balance career and personal life (selected by 43% of men and 36% of women as a top personal challenge) and avoid burnout (selected by 38% of men and 34% of women).

Leaders Strive to Strike a Balance Between Empathic Leadership and Driving Results

While new workplace norms call for a more empathetic approach to leadership and greater workplace flexibility, executives are acutely aware they must balance those needs with external pressure to drive results.

  • Nearly three in five (58%) executives say that taking decisive action for desired results is more important than demonstrating empathy and flexibility this year.
  • The overwhelming majority of executives (96%) believe that an effective leader must support employees in both their professional and personal lives.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of executives acknowledge they could be doing more to support their employees’ personal lives.
  • 62% of executives feel the workplace has reached a good balance when it comes to engaging colleagues on a personal level.

Executives Must Move Fast and Decisively

In the face of balancing organizational performance with effective leadership, executives are resolute in the fact that they must move fast and decisively. The report showed that executives recognize the need for nimble and inclusive leadership when navigating the challenges that lie ahead in 2024. When asked to rank the top three leadership capabilities needed in 2024, executives selected:

  • Ability to navigate changes quickly (42%)
  • Building high-performing teams (40%)
  • Understanding and promoting diversity, inclusion, and access (40%)

As the largest network of senior executive women, Chief will leverage these insights to further equip their network of business leaders with the skills they need to effectively respond to the pressing challenges facing their companies including through a new Roundtable series, one-on-one Executive Coaching, and tailored programming.

“This research shows that for executives, it’s not only lonely at the top but also more challenging than ever to be an effective leader,” said Carolyn Childers, Co-Founder and CEO, Chief. “The data shows that in the face of economic uncertainty, emerging technologies, and changing workforce expectations, executives are turning to new skills to navigate their organizations and achieve success in 2024.”

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