leadership, strategy
31 Jan 2020

CEO Insights – The leadership relativity theory of staying ahead

CEO Insights – The leadership relativity theory of staying ahead

Most good business leaders are on a quest to seek the holy grail of growth. They steer their business by navigating a jungle of green, yellow and red traffic light projects that push defined strategic must-win battles towards the promised land of commercial success.


Admittedly many of them miss the mark and fail because the leaders and many of their advisers, focus on processes and neglect the ever so important part, the people and culture aspect of the transformation.

These are some of the issues that we have been discussing over the years with business leaders and it has led me to define a playful 'Einstein'-like formula for commercial success as a basis for discussions. This formula is:

R = P²A

In the formula R represents the results which are driven by P², standing for people (motivation and skill) and process (tools and ways of working) times A, which stands for actions to reach defined targets.

Leadership 2020

Business is about people and for people learning is imperative. We are constantly trying to find wisdom, gain knowledge and insights to take us forward, and seek the guidance of others to become better.

Hanken & SSE has been at the forefront of researching the elements of successful leadership and organisational growth in the past 15 years. In our research, we have used both qualitative and quantitative methods e.g. by interviewing CEOs and HR directors to understand, identify and anchor the needed capabilities in organisations. Ten years ago in our Leadership 2020 study that we conducted, we looked at what the expected leadership needs in 2020 would be. The results showed that the most needed leadership capabilities in the year 2020 were to be people leadership, change & growth leadership and great communication skills. The results can be seen in the image below.

Leadership 2020 study

The Leadership 2020 study results. The companies that took part in the study were Accenture, Aktia, Basware, Cargotec, Elisa, Eläke-Tapiola, Fazer, F-secure, Gasum, Kone, Lemminkäinen, Lumene, Nordea Finance, OP-Pohjola, Outokumpu, Orion, Sanoma, Tamro and Tikkurila.

CEO Insights

This time around we are looking at needed capabilities a bit differently, namely through an interview series with CEOs in Finland. Through short video interviews, the CEOs share their views on both organisational and personal capabilities needed to succeed now and in the future. We strongly believe that the people aspect should be more emphasized today, in addition to processes driven to their excellence, to ensure commercial success.

I have the privilege of working with fantastic people in great companies, people who constantly drive themselves and their organisations to better results. It is wonderful to see that sustainability in contrast to shareholder value, culture and agility in contrast to functional structures and top-down have all been on the agenda of any modern organisation that wants to evolve and be competitive in the future. But what are really the capabilities that an organisation needs to be competitive and commercially successful in the future?

The annual state of the global workplace survey (in 142 countries) conducted by Gallup, concludes that only 13% of employees are engaged in their work – that is, they are emotionally invested and focused on creating value for their organisations every day. Actively disengaged workers worldwide continue to outnumber engaged workers at a rate of nearly 2-1. This sets a tone of its own on the needed requirements and efficient team contributors of today.

We invite you to join the discussion in your chosen network.


CEO insights is a video interview series with Finnish CEO’s providing insights and thoughts on the topics above in interesting discussion, on how to understand and create an impact in organisations with different cultures and people. The series is produced by Hanken & SSE Executive Education.

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