Designing the C-suite for growth: The evolving skill sets of executive leaders

Today, organisations are recognising the need for their C-suite executives to possess a diverse range of skills and experiences to drive growth. As the demands and complexities of the corporate world continue to evolve, the traditional responsibilities of C-suite roles are being redefined, and new skill sets are emerging as essential for executive leaders.

Through an analysis of over 46,000 C-suite job postings spanning from 2018 to 2023 (Deloitte) a clear pattern has emerged: organisations are increasingly seeking executives with strong quantitative backgrounds and the ability to navigate risk and regulatory environments. This shift highlights the growing importance of data-driven decision-making and proactive risk management in driving business growth.

One of the standout findings from the analysis is the surge in demand for executives with expertise in areas such as analytics, research and development, and scientific backgrounds. Across various C-suite roles, including Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Chief Operating Officers (COOs), Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Strategy Officers (CSOs), and Chief Revenue Officers (CROs), the requirement for quantitative skills has seen a significant uptick. This trend is likely fuelled by the rapid advancements in technology and artificial intelligence (AI), which are opening up new opportunities for businesses to leverage data and analytics to drive growth. Organisations recognise the need to infuse their strategies with quantitative expertise, enabling them to harness the power of technologies like generative AI to not only optimise efficiency but also drive innovation, improve products and services, and increase revenue.

In addition to quantitative skills, the analysis reveals a growing emphasis on risk management and regulatory compliance expertise across the C-suite. As businesses navigate an increasingly complex and uncertain global environment, leaders are expected to have a strong understanding of risk mitigation strategies and the ability to proactively adapt to evolving regulatory landscapes.

While the demand for risk and regulatory expertise is evident across most C-suite roles, one notable exception is the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). This role has not experienced a similar surge in demand for these skills, potentially indicating a need for CROs to collaborate closely with their C-suite counterparts to ensure revenue-generating initiatives align with the organisation’s broader risk and regulatory strategies.

Beyond technical skills, the analysis also highlights the enduring importance of “soft skills” in the C-suite. Qualities such as leadership, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving continue to be highly sought after in executive roles. As organisations strive to foster a culture of innovation and collaboration, these human capabilities are becoming increasingly crucial for successful leadership and driving cross-functional growth initiatives.

To prepare for this evolving landscape, organisations can consider implementing a few key strategies:

  • Upskilling and reverse mentoring: Providing opportunities for current C-suite executives to enhance their quantitative and regulatory knowledge through specialized training and reverse mentoring from younger employees can help bridge the skill gap

  • Succession planning and rotational programs: Identifying and developing high-potential future leaders through rotational programs that expose them to key quantitative, risk, and regulatory areas of the business can cultivate a well-rounded executive pipeline

  • Agile talent management: Embracing an agile approach to work by matching specific skills to business needs, rather than relying on rigid, defined roles, can enable organisations to adapt more effectively to changing skill requirements.

As businesses strive to achieve their growth objectives, the composition of the C-suite and the skills required for executive leadership will continue to evolve. Organisations that proactively develop, recruit, and harness these emerging skill sets across their executive teams will be better positioned to drive sustainable growth and maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly-changing business landscape.