Five Core Skills for CEOs in 2024


The end of the year is often a time for self-reflection, both personal and professional. As 2023 draws to a close, the winter break will give many professionals the necessary headspace to reflect on their achievements and set ambitious goals for the year ahead. This could mean undertaking further training and development, pursuing a promotion, or actively seeking a new role in a different company or even industry.

January and February are typically the busiest months of the year for hiring as new budgets and strategies come into effect so we can expect to see considerable movement in the job market. Research suggests that more than one-third[1] of Irish professionals plan to look for a new job in the coming months.

Continuous development and goal setting are especially important for those at executive-level, where the role of CEO is constantly changing in line with the business landscape. In the following article, Naomi McGuinness Head of Research outlines five key skills that every CEO needs in 2024 and beyond. Whether you are a seasoned executive at the pinnacle of your career, an aspiring leader ready for the next step, or a company in search of a visionary CEO, understanding and embodying these five key qualities will be vital for effective leadership.

1. People Leadership

Historically, the main competencies required for a CEO were technical expertise and financial acumen. While these are still core skills, businesses are also placing increasing emphasis on strong people skills and seeking leaders who can inspire, empower, and enable their teams.

Traditionally dismissed as “soft skills”, developing strong interpersonal skills should be a key priority for future CEOs. As the public face of the organisations they represent, CEOs set the tone for the whole company and guide its ethos and direction. Leaders must be human-centric, and not only set their company’s vision but embody it, driving accountability from all stakeholders.

In a world where talent is a critical driver of success and the job market is as competitive as ever, effective CEOs in 2024 must display emotional intelligence, warmth, and charisma to develop a positive organisational culture. A collaborative and inclusive work environment not only enhances employee satisfaction but also helps attract and retain top-tier talent. A 2023 survey from LinkedIn revealed[2] that almost 9 in 10 Millennial and Gen Z employees would leave their current role to go to a company more closely aligned with their values. As such, the significance of people leadership qualities in a CEO cannot be overstated as they directly impact employee engagement, and overall company performance.

2. Agility

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. The business landscape of the 2020s is characterised by unprecedented levels of economic and geopolitical uncertainty in the fallout of Brexit, Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Gaza wars. To better deal with constant change and disruption, it is fundamental that CEOs lead with agility.

An agile CEO identifies as flexible, curious, collaborative, and open minded with the ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges and capitalise on emerging opportunities. This type of executive will constantly re-evaluate their company’s long-term goals to ensure they have a competitive edge while meeting their short-term needs quickly and effectively. Agile leaders also promote a proactive corporate culture that values innovation, versatility, and resilience, and empower their entire organisation to thrive in a fast-paced and ever-changing business environment.

A 2023 survey from PwC revealed that one[3] in five Irish CEOs do not think that their organisations will be economically viable in a decade if they continue along their current path. Leaders anticipate regulatory changes, labour shortages, changing customer demands and technology disruptors to heavily impact their bottom line over the next ten years. In the current climate, business leaders must embrace an agile mindset and adapt their strategies as circumstances change. In 2024, the agility of a CEO is not merely a leadership style, but a critical factor that can determine an organisation’s success or failure.

3. A Growth Mindset (despite the headlines)

CEOs across all sectors must embrace a growth mindset for successful leadership. This is different yet complementary to the previously mentioned agile approach, which is concerned with effectively responding to challenges as they arise. Instead, a growth mindset is characterised by a continuous desire to progress and develop with an inspiring vision.

CEOs with a growth mindset encourage a company-wide culture of ongoing improvement and a willingness to embrace change. They inspire their workforce to welcome new ideas, and constantly seek ways to enhance performance and stay ahead of the competition. According to a report by the NeuroLeadership Institute, 69[4] % of businesses use their senior leadership teams as growth mindset role models for the rest of the company.

Executives that foster a growth mindset are more likely to take risks and are undeterred by obstacles, which they believe lead to deeper learning and greater success. In contrast, a fixed mindset, where intelligence, abilities, and talents are considered unchangeable, will almost certainly hinder growth.

4. Digital Savviness

In recent years, the need for a CEO to be a digital-savvy leader has become more critical than ever. From the accelerated adoption of remote working technology to cybersecurity concerns to the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, the business world is continually being shaped and disrupted by technological advancements. As a result, leaders need to have a keen interest and understanding of industry trends to navigate the complexities they bring. By harnessing digital technologies and leveraging data analytics, CEOs can make better informed decisions and allocate resources more effectively.

Tech-savvy CEOs lead by example, encouraging an innovative and forward-thinking spirit within their organisations. This leadership approach is particularly crucial in relation to ambitious digital transformation plans. CEOs must actively participate in and champion these initiatives to inspire confidence in their vision and rally the entire company towards a shared digital future.

Beyond basic technological awareness, CEOs also need to be able to spot both growth opportunities and risks associated with emerging technologies. While advanced technologies can offer new possibilities for efficiency, innovation, and market expansion, CEOs must be vigilant about potential risks, ethical implications, and regulatory issues. By striking the right balance, digital savvy CEOs can position their organisations for success.

For existing or prospective CEOs that haven’t started developing digital skills, now is the time to act. As tech continues to shape the future of industry, executives without digital acumen risk falling behind.

5. Executive Leadership

To be an effective CEO, leaders, and in particular business owners, must understand that they can’t do it all. It is therefore essential to build a strong and capable senior leadership team that the CEO can delegate responsibilities to and leverage expertise from. This not only alleviates the burden on business leaders but also ensures a more comprehensive and nuanced approach to decision-making.

A strong executive leadership team should offer diverse perspectives and skill sets that complement the CEO’s strengths. For instance, in a study of the top 20 companies on the Irish stock market, approximately 40% of ISEQ 20 CEOs are not qualified accountants. In such cases, CEOs may strategically bolster their team with a seasoned CFO. Similarly, other CEOs may utilise their team's knowledge in compliance, risk management, or human resources to enhance the organisation's overall competency and resilience.

As more and more businesses move away from the rigid, top-down model of management, decision-making needs to involve a much wider proportion of the workforce. Instead of heroically leading from the front, a growing number of CEOs find that their success is closely linked to the strength and reliability of their senior leadership team and recognise that effective leadership is a collaborative effort.


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