Next Generation Leadership

​One of the most striking things that came out of the research with the book “Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value” was the extent to which the CEOs we spoke to engaged in the development of coming generations of leaders that can drive future transformations of the companies that they lead.  As well-functioning organizations typically recruit their senior leaders from within, the development of leadership capability is a way to organize transformation for the very long run.

Indeed, major strategic changes in companies are strongly correlated to changes in the set of people that lead the companies on different levels. The reason is that new times demand new strategic capabilities – both in terms of being able to handle new technological challenges, and driving the company forward under new environmental conditions. As a consequence, the next generation of leadership needs to be able to foresee, handle, and drive such changes, not only react to them when they happen (in which case it is often too late).

At the same time, globalization leads to more complex organizations. There is a trend to move away from the classical model with one center and several sites (the multi-domestic model) to a multi-centered model where the important relations and decision not necessarily involves the headquarters. Hence, there are both internal and external changes that a new generation of leaders needs to develop strategic capabilities for. Key factors to improve the ability of an organization to adapt and drive such changes are related to leading innovativeness and entrepreneurship. 

The CEOs we spoke to all acknowledged that what we phrase as the Next Generation Leadership was one of the most crucial issues that they dealt with, and that the current set of human resource management systems, evaluation systems and promotion principles were far from satisfying the need to adapt to future challenges. Although there is much of research on human resource management, the development of future leadership skill beyond the traditional systems is very scarce. 

There are two major issues involved in the development of “Next Generation Leadership”:
  • The connection between large future challenges, the organizational purpose, strategy, structure and leadership development is very vague in most companies. Leaders do find ways to help other leaders develop, but this is done in a very unofficial and ad hoc way.

  • The connection between large future challenges, the individual capability to drive transformation (as implementation, entrepreneurial initiatives or innovation projects) and the organizational capability to support such transformations.

Research initiatives
​• Extensive interview studies with senior management, HR staff and “high potential leaders” in three global companies on how effective the organizations are in terms of current strategy, structure and the development of leadership, and how effective the organizations are with respect to developing and changing and developmental workshops with the same companies.

• The “top list study” – an interview study with 40 young promising leaders in five countries.

• Interviews with around 300 “high potentials” and their managers in the subsidiaries of western companies in Mexico, Brazil, India, China and Malaysia (with student researchers).

• Quantitative survey of all high potential leader interviewees. 

Earlier participants
  • ​Björn Frössevi
  • Oscar Perrusquia
  • Susanne Ollila
Student researchers
  • Hannes Bjartmar Jonsson
  • Gabriella Hegardt
  • Emma Jakobsson
  • Teele Kundla
  • Mikael Lehtomaa
  • Sigurdur Logi Sneland
  • Henrik Lövetoft
  • Erik Mattsson
  • Jonas Otterheim
  • Alexander Westerling
  • Victor Åkerlund
  • Liza Åkesson
​The project is partly financed by Vinnova and TruePoint Center.

Published: Wed 25 Mar 2015. Modified: Wed 08 Apr 2015