The 6 trends CEOs see shaping global business today





A group of global CEOs recently gathered for a private dinner in a Spanish restaurant in central Tokyo.

Representing a variety of sectors spanning food, insurance and banking, medical devices, semiconductors, and heavy industries like steel, it was the first time they had all been together since the COP28 meeting in Dubai and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier in the year.

Global disruptions were the main topic for these Japanese executives, just as they are in executive conversations around the world.

These are six topics that dominated the evening’s discussion:

1. Sustainability. At Davos, environmental, social, and governance topics were prevalent, even though the acronym “ESG” was rarely, if ever, mentioned. Instead, discussions were much more specific, focusing on areas such as biodiversity, food systems, and carbon transition, among others. Companies are expected to understand the role they will play in helping the world transition to a more sustainable, lower carbon economy.

Japan may have been a slight latecomer to this, but there is no longer any doubt that sustainability is a top agenda item for all C-suite executives. The number of business roundtables and events dedicated to the topic has proliferated just in the last one to two years.

2. A less globalized world with greater geopolitical risk. From wars in Ukraine and the Middle East to ongoing economic tensions between the US and China, there’s plenty of risk to go around. For these executives, an important aspect of this shift is the private capital diversion from China to other Asian markets. Japan, Singapore, and India in particular are beneficiaries of this trend. Additional private capital provides an interesting opportunity for many businesses to become more efficient and accelerate growth.

A second aspect is recent supply chain disruption that has industries such as semiconductors looking for alternative suppliers, creating additional demand in Japan. Finally, as China stimulates its slowing domestic economy, greater manufacturing output is fueling price competition globally in a number of industries, among them automotive, steel, and solar panels. This is putting tremendous pressure on all the executives at the dinner table and creating sharp competition in markets including Southeast Asia, India, South America, and Africa.

3. Technology and Artificial Intelligence. Generative AI has fueled the urgency to better leverage technology for competitive advantage. This is not just a chief technology officer issue—it’s relevant to the entire C-suite. Generative AI has gone from experimentation and proof-of-concept development to real, fundamental business model disruption. The race to scale solutions across large global organizations with complicated, often legacy IT infrastructures, is afoot. This has implications for both enterprise technology and change management. Japan is pushing to keep up. Start-ups and corporate giants like NEC are all making big investments but risk falling behind in a field where agility and speed are paramount—not always the top characteristics of traditional Japanese industry.

4. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It’s become stylish in some quarters to argue that such efforts are losing favor, but not at this table. In a country famous for conformity, those efforts are nevertheless taking hold in very profound and real ways that are influencing the labor markets. In Japan the thinking is broad. It’s not only gender equity, as important as that is, but also global, experiential, and leadership diversity. The share of female board members at Japanese companies is low, but so is the breadth of management experience and global representation.

5. Corporate governance. Around the world, boards are under increasing shareholder and public pressure to address issues one through four above. In Japan, this is a very present topic. While other markets such as the US and UK are rather new to thinking about properly representing the interests of multiple stakeholders, Japan has arguably always been ahead of the game. If anything, shareholders have been somewhat neglected. Building governance that creates value for all stakeholders will require the focus of executives, independent directors, and institutional investors alike.

6. Rising cost of money. The rise in interest rates has increased funding costs for corporations. While interest rates were nearly zero and borrowing costs were minimal until a few years ago, interest rate hikes are now widespread globally, leading to higher borrowing costs. Even in Japan, interest rates are expected to slowly rise. It was national news when the country ended eight years of negative interest rates aimed at stimulating growth and combating deflation.

Any one of these would be a career-defining challenge for a CEO. Tackling all six at once? Well, it’s a hard job. CEOs are expected to have answers to a much broader set of complicated questions but never lose sight of critical business operations like costs relative to the competition, the customer value proposition, and the recipe for driving top-line growth.

CEOs are being asked how they are contributing to making the world a better place—safer, more sustainable, more equitable, more innovative. That may be a good thing, but it’s not a job for the faint of heart.



So…How Do You Measure Success?






Success is something that everyone in any career field would like to achieve. Success may mean different things to different people.



Here are some perspectives:

It’s an easy path to try and measure success by the numbers, but when asked personally I think of happiness but also my impact on others.  When I am asked about my biggest success at work, it is always the people and who have I helped develop and grow. That is my professional legacy, and the measure of success. On the personal side, I revert back to happiness and creating memories not only for yourself but for the loved ones you surround yourself with.  Something I have to keep reminding myself of is that the journey can be successful, not just the destination.

Steve Rudderham,  Global Leader for Carrier Business Services



For business I have always measured success on how I help those connected    to me be successful. Who I report to being. an individual or board, the people that report to myself and my peers. If what I am doing is reflecting progress and development of the echo-system around me, then I have no need to check on my success.

David Gai, COO Leadspace


Raising my kids to be the best versions of themselves.  They can be whomever they want, no limits. Raise them to be good people and be good to each other.

Be a good partner for Pamela. Supportive, growing with her, experiencing new places together.

We are building a special company at Syniti. We have in a unique space of data at a special time in industry growth. So, success is delivering on our mission creating a place where data professionals can perfect their craft and helping deliver game changing business benefits with our clients.

Always living our/my values – think big, be curious, take action and better together.  After all, at the end it is the friends we make along the way and the memories that we make that we remember.

Building a lasting company, watching and helping people grow, helping   people do more than they think is possible and learning every day!

Kevin Campbell, Chief Executive Officer at Syniti



We would welcome your thoughts, for our next blog on success.

Thank you,

Larry Janis, Managing Partner, ISSG



HR is often left out of AI plans, despite the need for upskilling and inclusio




By Carolyn Crist

As companies rapidly adopt AI tools in the workplace, HR and organizational leaders should be involved to ensure new changes can be implemented successfully, according to a June 17 report from McLean & Co. — but that’s not always the case.

“Despite playing a significant role in organizations, HR is being left out of the conversation on AI adoption,” according to the firm. That’s a mistake because HR leaders can help develop a strategic and holistic approach that considers the benefits, risks and objectives of AI use — while also maximizing return on investment and mitigating harms to reputation, security and inclusivity, it said.

“The AI strategy is the central point from which both technical and people-related AI activities originate,” Lisa Highfield, principal director of human resources technology and AI at McLean & Co., said in a statement.

“It provides the direction, guideposts, and priorities that inform the organization’s activities and enables a smooth execution to transform AI from an idea into reality,” she said. “However, introducing AI technologies can create tension within an organization, considering there are often differing views, competing priorities, and large volumes of change.”

That’s where HR and organizational leaders can play a role in aligning AI strategy with broader organizational goals, Highfield noted. A well-designed AI strategy can provide benefits such as an aligned vision and mission, proper governance, higher success rates with digital transformation and better ROI.

Without an informed strategy, though, companies could face risks such as technological dependence, unintentional bias and threats to data security, privacy and confidentiality.

The McLean & Co. report suggested several steps to navigate AI adoption, such as establishing an AI strategy steering committee, assessing current and target AI maturity, identifying AI use cases and values, and creating an AI roadmap based on organizational priorities.

Importantly, the report noted, leaders should communicate AI strategy and initiatives across employee groups to keep everyone informed and involved with the plan.

Upskilling should be part of the strategic plan and communication initiatives. In fact, employees of every position and background may need AI training, experts have told HR Dive.

About 90% of HR leaders believe up to half their workforce will need to be reskilled in the next five years as AI developments roll out, according to a PeopleScout and Spotted Zebra report. To do this, leaders will need to communicate their plans, address fears and ensure employees receive the training they need, the report found.

Workers want these training opportunities, too. About 57% of workers worldwide said they’re ready for reskilling and retraining in new roles amid AI developments, according to a Boston Consulting Group report. Job seeker interest in learning and career development has increased as well.



Why CHROs are the new C-Suite power players




By Lindsey Galloway


This is the first in Chief’s new series, The New C-Suite, which examines how rapidly-shifting workplace norms and technologies have impacted today’s top corporate power players — and what it means for executive women.

What do Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, Leena Nair, CEO of Chanel, and Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, all have in common? They all once served as HR leaders. Once relegated to the sidelines, HR and People leaders have become a pivotal part of the C-Suite, especially as remote work, ‘quiet’ hiring and firing trends, DEI initiatives, and other talent management functions have taken center stage in the corporate landscape.

According to data firm AON, the failure to attract and retain top talent comes in as the fourth largest risk to organizations today, a huge jump when compared to previous years when it didn’t even rank in the top 10. The need for an executive leader to manage that talent continues to grow, with 473 of the Fortune 500 having a Chief Human Resource Officer, and the role seeing a growth in average salary as well.

The function also continues to be dominated by women. Spencer Stuart research found that 70% of CHRO roles in the Fortune 500 are held by women, trailing only Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer for sheer representation. Since the role interfaces closely with the CEO and every other department, the CHRO offers essential experience on the way to the corner office. (more…)

How to Handle a Toxic Boss





by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries



People don’t leave bad jobs they leave bad managers.

Naomi was troubled by recurrent nightmares. Each night, she found herself trapped in a dark parking lot with no exit, hiding from approaching footsteps. As a shadowy figure with a familiar face loomed closer, Naomi tried to run but her feet felt like lead. She’d wake up, drenched in sweat.

Through therapy and coaching, Naomi connected the dots between the subject of her nightmares and her overbearing boss. She realised that the constant anxiety she felt going into work stemmed directly from his demanding behaviour. Ironically, while her boss pushed for increased performance, his methods undermined her confidence and hindered her ability to deliver.

Workplace stress due to bad bosses is more common than most people realize. Dealing with bosses who behave inappropriately, set unrealistic expectations or are unsupportive of work-life balance unsurprisingly leads to negative health outcomes.

Toxic work environments have been linked to high levels of anxietydepressionpoor sleephigh blood pressure and even premature aging. High levels of work stress may result in unhealthy behaviours and habits, and spill over into personal lives, affecting the well-being of partners and children.

Bad bosses exist in all shapes and sizes, spanning from narcissists and bullies to micromanagers. Among them are those with extreme mood swings and unreasonable expectations, as well as those who hoard information, avoid conflict, never give positive feedback or are perpetually unavailable. These traits make them very difficult to work for.

Especially harmful are bosses who have both psychopathic and narcissistic traits. Driven by this “dark dyad”, they are often quite Machiavellian. They tend to exploit those they manage, take credit for their subordinates’ work, be overly critical and generally behave inappropriately. In addition to being a nightmare for individuals, bad bosses can significantly harm the overall work climate. Their demands and behaviours drain employees’ willpower and motivation, contribute to mental fatigue and impair performance.  (more…)