We researched 21,000 leaders: here’s the five-element model we discovered

There are three, sometimes competing, imperatives that leaders need to manage. And now, with the pandemic still raging and people starting to return to work, excellence in leadership has become more urgent.

  1. Operational performance. Daily organisational performance is a matter of what gamblers call “table stakes” — it’s the minimum requirement you need to stay in the game.
  2. Continuous improvement. This is a tough one because improvement means change, change means disruption, and disruption is the enemy of organisational performance — which we’ve just said is the first responsibility of leaders. However, it must be managed in the service of continuous improvement. And leaders need to manage those two imperatives while they…
  3. Earn and build stakeholder trust. Customers and other stakeholders are increasingly vocal about societal and environmental progress.

Accenture research shows that organisations that do all three well — combining top-tier trust and top-tier innovation — outperform their industry peers with a 3,1% higher operating profit margin.

The model that these leaders use is called the Five Elements Model of Responsible Leadership. It was shaped by more than 20,000 people around the world. We surveyed nearly 2,000 World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers, 2,300 senior executives, and 3,000 business stakeholders including policymakers and representatives of civil society.

We hosted online and in-person focus groups and benefited from other Accenture research that surveyed 2,500 CEOs and executives and 11,000 consumers and employees.

The study is the first stage of a multi-year initiative between the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the Global Shapers Community, in collaboration with Accenture. The aim of the initiative is to create a new framework for responsible leadership and to help organisations cultivate environments in which it can flourish.

The study found that companies that managed all three priorities had a different and sometimes unusual approach to leadership: top teams had a strong focus on continuous learning, backed by data; a stakeholder mindset anchored in compassion; generous humility; and listening to intuition.

We classified their approach into what we call Five Elements. These are the qualities that leadership teams will need to navigate the decade ahead.

I will be unpacking each element in turn in upcoming blog posts. The Five Elements of responsible leadership are:

  • Stakeholder inclusion. This is where leaders stand in the shoes of their stakeholders when making decisions. It also alludes to a culture of inclusion where diverse individuals feel they have a voice and feel they belong.
  • Emotion and intuition. This element speaks to showing compassion, being open and humble, and thereby unlocking creativity and commitment.
  • Mission and purpose. This element uses a shared vision of sustainable prosperity for the organisation and its stakeholders to advance the organisation’s goals.
  • Technology and innovation. This is how leaders harness emerging technology and innovation to create organisational and societal value.
  • Intellect and insight. This alludes to how leaders embrace continuous learning and knowledge exchange.

Our goal with this three-year initiative is to develop a new norm: leadership teams that are purpose-built to deliver sustainable growth.

We have identified three questions for organisations keen to join this journey:

  1. Who are your stakeholders and how well do you know them?
  2. Is your team on course to have a Five Elements profile?
  3. What do you need to accelerate and scale responsible leadership qualities throughout your organisation?

In the posts that follow we will unpack these questions and examine the Five Elements in more depth.

You can read the full report here: Seeking New Leadership: Responsible leadership for and sustainable and equitable world. Or please contact me so that we can chat about how the Five Elements model might apply to your organisation.