Clarke Murphy: "Digital puts pressure on leaders”
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January 03, 2021
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The stock market values companies more if they have strategies around responsible behavior and sustainable impact, a key consideration as company’s select new leadership.
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Le Figaro

The Le Figaro article, “Clarke Murphy: "Digital puts pressure on leaders,"” features a Q&A with Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy where he shares the impact of the pandemic on leadership profiles and what organizations are looking for. A translated excerpt of the article is below.​ 

Russell Reynolds Associates - 1,500 people in 46 countries and $768 million in turnover in 2019 - advises companies on recruitment and assessment of their leaders. Based in New York, its CEO, Clarke Murphy, occupies a privileged position to analyze the new requirements of boards of directors since the onset of the health crisis. 

LE FIGARO. - How do CEOs manage remote working? 

Clarke MURPHY. - Most board meetings are held via videoconference. The whole world has discovered the inside of each other's homes! In crisis situations, information sharing is essential for leaders in order to guide decisions, determine the instructions to be given, and in particular, to protect the health of colleagues. All this is now done remotely. 

Many wonder how corporate culture will be affected by new fashions of work. With the rise of remote working, executives will have to develop their leadership, have a vision and know how to share it, and show the ability to empathize with their teams to weld them and motivate them. 

Is this crisis changing the qualities required to be appointed CEO, the criteria on which they are recruited? 

The crisis will be harder to overcome for those who are less inclined to communicate and to rally the troops. Communication skills are therefore more important than before. But the profiles have also changed because the pandemic has shown the need for agile leaders, who are responsive and very comfortable with digital. 

Finally, another trend - sensitive before the pandemic but one that is gaining ground - is the will of boards to recruit women or men who think and act long term, not just for the financial results of next quarter. 

What is the cause of this new concern? 

A conviction begins to grow: To succeed, the leader must take into account the interest of all stakeholders of the company (employees, suppliers, customers…). That implies to reflect on its impact on society and the environment. The company will not be able to, for example, retain talent if it does not adopt this line of conduct. They risk losing customers and being less attractive for the financial markets, who are starting to adopt the same logic. The stock market values companies more if they have strategies around responsible behavior and sustainable impact. So it's no wonder that more and more often when choosing a leader, the board takes into account these requirements. 

Is this question of impact a deciding factor for boards? 

Not yet. Over 90% of leaders believe that impact is important, but until recently this subject was only mentioned in 4% of job specifications. However, today is a point on which a growing number of candidates are evaluated. What matters is not so much that they were previously the head of a leading company responsible for ecological transition but their ability to improve the impact of the business if they take the job. ​ 

Are boards of directors really involved much in the choice of CEOs? 

The board is clearly more involved than before. It even shows in Japan, where they are more rigorous than ten years ago. They analyze applications in much more detail. Boards attentively watch over the work of the CEO, but also the whole executive committee. They always need to be thinking about one or two possible successors to their CEO. When they know that they will have to find a replacement, they are now doing it two to three years in advance to identify which one would be best fit.  

Do the boards change too? 

France has made great progress on the subject of diversity. Other countries are moving more slowly, but the movement has launched. Beyond gender diversity, which enriches points of view and experiences, it is also important to have diversity of cultures and profiles. It improves performance. 

To read the full article, click here​.