In a startling finding, the recent WEF Five Elements Model of Responsible Leadership research revealed that, across the world and irrespective of gender, Young Leaders and Global Shapers are nearly 100% committed to Stakeholder Inclusion — one of the five Responsible Leadership elements. Very close behind (with over 80% commitment each) were the elements of Emotion and Intuition, and Mission and Purpose.

This research was conducted by Accenture in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers Community. For more information about the scope and purpose of the research, please see the first blog in this series. 

As far as the Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers Community were concerned, acceptable business models must include social and environmental progress. This is non-negotiable for them — and 61% of respondents in the broader survey agreed. Respondents called these socially and environmentally responsible business practices a “licence to prosper.” 

This makes sense as we take stock at the beginning of the new decade of the leadership challenges that face us. 

  • The climate is in a state of emergency. Current trends will lead to global warming of between 2,9 and 3,4 degrees by 2100, with catastrophic consequences for food security.  
  • In the first few months of the decade we faced the Covid19 pandemic, which highlighted some of the structural weaknesses in the global economy and in the way societies are structured. 
  • The global economy is fragile. The top 10% of people enjoy 50% of the world’s wealth. This social inequality limits further growth and fuels the backlash against globalisation, and with it the free flow of goods, people services, data and capital. 
  • The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which my colleagues Vukani Mngxati and Rory Moore have covered in their blogs, is only just beginning to be felt. Technologies such as AI, blockchain, machine learning, gene editing and quantum computing are nudging executives to reassess what it means to be a responsible business. 
  • People are at risk of being left behind. Our research showed that companies have doubled their investment in AI, but increased their investment in re-skilling by only 18%. 

In the light of these challenges, it’s no wonder that Young Global Leaders and the Global Shapers Community place the greatest emphasis on Stakeholder Inclusion. 

All these dynamics point to how the balance of power is shifting towards stakeholders and away from companies. Leaders are being held accountable in a new way to stakeholders who aren’t customers or suppliers and who, in some cases, have no direct dealings with the organisation. 

An example is how a tweet from climate activist Greta Thunberg can move capital markets. A recent Global Shapers Community survey of a massive 30,000 young people revealed that after salary, the most important criterion when considering where to work is the employer’s sense of purpose and impact on society. 

More than ever before, it is stakeholders who award companies their “license to prosper.” 

All this adds up to a compelling case of putting stakeholders at the front and centre of any leadership development program or leadership approach in any industry.