Deloitte identifies top leadership traits for the Industry 4.0 era

25 January 2019 6 min. read

Deloitte has released its second annual Industry 4.0 report, which identifies the leadership characteristics required for business success during the digital revolution.

The past twelve months have seen new leaders take the helm at some of the world’s most prominent consultancies. Kevin Sneader at McKinsey in the middle of last year, Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Maceda at Bain & Company in March, and, albeit for health reasons, David Rowland as the interim CEO at Accenture following Pierre Nanterme’s decision to step down. EY, too, has elected Carmine Di Sibio as its next global chairman to succeed Mark Weinberger come July.

The concentration of these baton changes may be a coincidence, but they are occurring at a time of great global upheaval in the business domain and world at large, with the advent of the digital revolution or what has been termed as Industry 4.0. Weinberger, for one, has said that it is time for the next generation of business leaders to assume the top mantles, and, notably, Di Sibio has an impressive record for driving inclusiveness and technological innovation at EY.

As these and many other global consulting leaders gather in Davos this week to discuss subjects surrounding technology and society, amidst growing economic gloom from the business realm and calls for greater social equality, the biggest of the Big Four in Deloitte has released its second annual Industry 4.0 Readiness Report; Success Personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which via a survey of 2,000-plus senior executives identifies the four leadership personas for best navigating the new business environment.The characteristics of data-driven and of socially-minded leaders Altogether, some 2,042 global C-level executives (including CEOs/presidents, COOs, CFOs, CMOs, CIOs and CTOs) operating in all major sectors were surveyed from 19 countries across Asia, the Americas and Europe, with half of those representing organisations generating in excess of $5 billion in annual revenues and the others bringing in no less than $1 billion. Their responses suggest a growing awareness about the genuine challenges ahead.

Of the many insights uncovered from this year’s survey, the report states, one seems to stand out: “The number of respondents who insisted they are doing ‘all they could’ to prepare their workforces for Industry 4.0 fell by nearly half. Knowing that business leaders are loath to take their collective foot off the pedal, this likely means that many executives are gaining a much deeper understanding of Industry 4.0, are increasingly aware of the challenges before them, and are viewing the actions needed to succeed in Industry 4.0 more realistically.”

While Deloitte notes that there is no one recipe for success in how to deal with rapid industrial transformation, emerging from the survey was a picture of the types of leaders at organisations presently making the most progress and the characteristics which set these leaders apart in addressing challenges across four pertinent dimensions; society, strategy, technology, and talent. Deloitte has then grouped pace-setters into four corresponding leadership personas - Social Supers, Data-driven Decisives, Disruption Drivers, and Talent Champions.

Leadership Personas

The Social Supers for example were those leaders of companies which generated fresh revenue streams and greater profitability by developing or adapting products to be more socially or environmentally conscious, with these leaders being more likely on average to have an appetite for disruption (42% against 29%), be more confident that their organisations have the appropriate workforce composition and skill-sets (44% vs 32%), and be more inclined to provide extensive Industry 4.0 training for current employees (55% vs 37%).

Indeed, these highlighted enterprise characteristics are common across the four categories of persona, such that organisations headed by Data-driven Decisives (those which use data-driven insights to capitalise on opportunities, with almost half of them reaping annual revenue growth of greater than 5% compared to just a quarter of other businesses) are also inclined to favour disruption (47% compared to 32%) and be particularly geared toward internal industry 4.0 training (69% vs 41%).The characteristics of disruptive and of talent-backing leadersNaturally, it follows that the Disruption Drivers (those which have invested in new technologies to disrupt the market) and the Talent Champions (those aggressively preparing their workforces for the future) are also strong in these particular categories and demonstrate greater confidence in their areas of their approach as well. While certain aspects however vary between the groups, such as Disruption Drivers taking a more holistic view toward decision-making as compared to their peers, the report notes the common threads between successful contemporary leaders.

According to the analysis, the primary traits which feature across the board are; a commitment to doing good, such as being highly attuned to the ethical dimensions of powerful modern technologies; having a clearer vision of the path forward, in that they are methodical and purposeful in setting Industry 4.0 strategies; having a bold, longer-term lens on technology investment – being more likely to invest toward market disruption, and; that they take the lead on workforce development, embracing the opportunity to re-skill their existing employee-base.

“Our research has uncovered four distinct types of leaders succeeding in Industry 4.0,” says Deloitte CEO Punjit Renjen, who, incidentally, has led the firm since 2015 and will be up for reelection this year. “These leaders are achieving greater revenue growth than their counterparts, in part, because they have conquered at least one, and sometimes more, of the dimensions required for success. For other leaders seeking to prepare for the challenges of this new era, these personas offer insights that can be used to shape their own strategies for success.”