In the Summer 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO survey, CEOs have lowered their high growth expectations and acknowledged the significance of the mounting array of crises facing the world today.
The complexity and uncertainty of the economic environment are weighing on CEOs today as they plan for the next 12-18 months while navigating a myriad of disruptive factors such as inflation and supply chain issues, talent and skills gaps, and geopolitical instability. But despite lower economic growth expectations shared by CEOs, they remain relatively optimistic about the performance outlook of their own organizations.
Growth expectations trend downward, and pessimism is on the rise
While about half of CEOs expect strong or very strong growth for their own organization over the next 12 months, this is a far cry from the previous optimism levels CEOs had expressed regarding anticipated growth, decreasing 28% from June 2021 (77%) and 16% from January 2022 (65%). Regarding personal outlook, CEO optimism also declined from where it was just five months ago, particularly for the global economy.
Disruptors are many and in flux
More than eighty percent of CEOs expect inflation to influence or disrupt their business strategy within the next 12 months. While labor/skills shortage has been unseated from its previous top position, it remains a top disruptor for over half (59%) of CEOs. Geopolitical instability and supply chain disruptions round out the list (49% and 45%, respectively). When asked how the Russia-Ukraine conflict has adversely affected their organization, mental health implications for employees and families was mentioned most (32%).
[The Russia-Ukraine conflict] has helped contribute to inflation and uneasiness about the future.
–CEO Survey respondent
Regarding the value of various tactics being employed to combat the Great Resignation, CEOs believe there is more to be gained by providing greater flexibility (83%) and training leaders to empower and engage workers (62%) as opposed to merely offering more financial-related incentives, such as increasing pay (26%), expanding benefits (23%), and offering referral bonuses (8%). Finally, CEOs recognize that training should not just be for leaders, as some offered comments suggesting that the way to combat the current talent gap is through reskilling, upskilling, and more career development opportunities.
Blurred lines between polarized external politics and running a business.
– CEO Survey respondent (when asked to share their biggest challenge)
This is a heavy time in the world; keeping people positive is hard.
– CEO Survey respondent
However, are we just scratching the surface when trying to get to what CEOs are going through? Digging deeper, other challenges mentioned were less tangible and more emotional, such as ‘morale,’ ‘positivity,’ and ‘exhaustion.’ Seeing some of these responses, and taking a step back to reflect on the never-before-seen challenges they’ve had to lead through over the past two years, we must ask ourselves, are we expecting too much from today’s CEOs? They may have what it takes, but in today’s environment, there appears to be no shortage of challenges to juggle. On a positive note, despite the many challenges, CEOs continue to be doing well with their personal well-being, with the majority (72%) optimistic or very optimistic on this front, just slightly down from five months ago.We may well indeed be observing today’s CEOs going through a shift from an unflappable optimist (always seeing opportunity in adversity) to a more vulnerable, servant leader. While still undisruptable,i this transformed CEO may possibly be more relatable and in touch with their many stakeholders, including workers, shareholders, customers, and communities. In this increasingly digital and virtual age, perhaps it isn’t surprising, and also a good thing, that we are seeing a more human side of today’s CEOs.
i 5 attributes of the undisruptable CEO during COVID-19