According to an extensive Korn Ferry study – gathering the opinions of nearly 800 investors and including a detailed analysis of more than 150,000 leaders – corporate leadership is ill-prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

The study states that the rapid changes to the business and information landscape caused by globalisation is a disruptive force. For businesses to survive in the swiftly changing business world, new leadership models must be adopted. The Korn Ferry Institute reveals that the ideal leader for tomorrow’s disruptive business environment is the Self-Disruptive Leader.

This new model of leaders highlights the importance of adaptability. Such leaders incorporate existing concepts of fast, digital and, inclusive leadership. They are also experts in the creation of opportunities and capitalisation of knowledge flow. This kind of adaptability can help single out leaders as a new source of competitive advantage

After conducting a thorough investigation into the composition of leadership pools in 18 key markets, the overall picture shows that only 15 per cent of today’s leaders can be called self-disruptors. These leaders are highly prized by the market as 69 per cent of the investors and analysts asked by Korn Ferry said that the need for transformation will make leadership more important to company performance within the next three years. Additionally, almost eight of ten investors insist that the right leader is critically important when choosing which company to invest in.

Companies with leaders who are not future-proofed with the right skills will find themselves in a precarious situation. Not only will they have trouble adapting to the rapidly changing business environment, they may also face issues from those who evaluate their business.

The Korn Ferry study explains that globally, 67 per cent of investors believe that traditional and legacy leadership will not fit in the future business landscape. This is particularly so in countries such as China and Japan where 82 per cent and 80 per cent of investors respectively believe so. The study shows that most investors are not trying to be unreasonable. 65 per cent of investors said they would give leaders increased financial scope to initiate improvements for future-proofing. 61 per cent said they would give companies more time to enact major changes.

The report further elaborates on how there are 5 key areas to improve for leaders to succeed in the future. These areas are abbreviated to ADAPT.


Leaders who can anticipate react to new trends quicker and may also shape them. These leaders listen rather than dictate, allowing them to identify possibilities ahead of others instead of being left behind. These leaders know where an organisation needs to go and how to get there.


Leaders who drive organisations through disruption can help manage anxiety and improve motivation. These leaders are empathetic, able to relate to others and thus able to inspire them to attain greater success. These leaders focus on helping colleagues replenish what they need to sustain performance.


These leaders understand the feeling of missing out and strive to encourage early support and quick prototyping. They know that innovators do not originate ideas, but they possess the drive to successfully execute them. These leaders will provide others with autonomy and flexibility to help them conduct their projects quickly and efficiently.


Leaders that know how to partner effectively understand that innovation is created collectively, not alone. They understand that technology has blurred the line between industries and that effective partnership can lead to massive mutual benefits. They also realise that collaboration may not necessarily result in team harmony, and that productive competition may also lead to new ideas and innovations.


Leaders who inspire trust are open minded and welcoming to all races, gender, orientation and social background. They encompass a mindset of inclusivity and sharing goals, responsibilities and, power. These leaders understand that future generations care very much about achieving personal dreams and will help them along the way to maximise their disruptive capability.