The pace of business today is faster than ever and the role of the CEO continues to change. How do we future-proof CEOs? What are the issues that surround their success and succession planning? These are just two of the questions that we put to almost 70 current CEOs, Chairs and HR Directors to find out what executives can do now that will prepare them to be a CEO for a dynamic and changing future. The results of our research, undertaken at the time of the Brexit referendum, proved both surprising and insightful.

Had these questions been asked, say, three years ago, against a backdrop of the winter floods, then without doubt, our environment and climate change would have been in the top two responses. However, as the role of technology continues to grow in our lives and the business world changes, then it is technology that has come out significantly ahead.

We interviewed 66 current CEOs, Chairs and HR Directors to find out what people can do now that will prepare them to be a CEO for a dynamic and changing future. We wanted to know what kind of experiences will they require and what sort of skills and traits they will need to develop.

Our contributors spoke candidly about how the business world is changing and what is causing those changes. They revealed some of the changes needed to be a CEO in the future and how that relates to the changing business environment. Finally, they described how current and prospective Chief Executives could best prepare for that future.

Nearly three-quarters of the interviewees felt that technology and digital would be the biggest drivers of change over the next 5-10 years. These, combined with a demographic transformation, are creating an unprecedented rate and pace of change.

This complex, changing landscape will impact upon the requirements of CEOs in many ways, affecting their role, the best leadership styles and approaches, and the personality traits which will be best suited to lead organisations.

The role of the Chief Executive has always been demanding, but this research paints a picture of a job with exceptional, all-consuming demands on an individual. Although contributors described various ways in which the role can be made more manageable, unsurprisingly there was still wide consensus that being a CEO needed huge energy and resilience.

We hope that this research will be informative and useful for individuals and teams within public, private and family-owned businesses. Furthermore, we hope that aspiring CEOs can gain a clearer understanding of the learning profiles and initiatives undertaken by successful business leaders.

We are indebted to the Chief Executives, Chairs and HR Directors who contributed to this research. In addition, we’d like to thank Grant Murray for conducting this research with us.