One study of Fortune 100 executives, featured in the Harvard Business Review, found that the majority of senior executives today went to state universities, not the more elite schools. A Washington Post report of the study pointed out that “In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001 that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges.”
Moreover, nearly 11 percent are foreign born. And while women still deal with the glass ceiling, they have a more rapid rise to the top ranks, today. Nevertheless, it’s significant to note that nearly 87 percent of corporate board seats are held by white workers. According to research by DiversityInc and the think tank Catalyst, six African Americans are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 7.4 percent hold corporate board seats; eight Hispanics are Fortune 500 CEOs, and 3.3 percent hold corporate board seats.
Even so, it’s clear that a shift is underway along many fronts. For example, in aWashington Post interview, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli pointed out that another one of the study’s major findings was “…sharp decline in the lifetime employment model among senior guys. The percentage of top leaders who spent their entire careers at one company dropped from 50 percent in 1980 to 45 percent in 2001 to less than a third in 2011.”
Not only is the education background and employment patterns of top corporate leaders becoming more equal over time, the orientation and skills they will need in the future are also changing. And that’s becoming increasingly visible as well. For example, a fascinating study by the Hay Group and German futurists at Z-Punktidentifies six trends that their research indicates will shape leadership needs in the years ahead. I think their findings align with similar shifts in the larger culture: an evolution in all sectors of society and in individual lives today — again, towards heightened collaboration, connection, emotional attunement to others, and diverse interdependence.
Consider the findings of this report, Leadership 2030. It speaks of the rise of the “altorocentric” leader. In a Washington Post interview by Jena McGregor, Georg Vielmetter of the Hay Group explained that “Altrocentric” means ” …focusing on others. Such a leader doesn’t put himself at the very center. He knows he needs to listen to other people. He knows he needs to be intellectually curious and emotionally open. He knows that he needs empathy to do the job, not just in order to be a good person. (and) …leaders in the future need to have a full understanding, and also an emotional understanding, of diversity.” Also significant, Vielmetter pointed out, “…positional power and hierarchical power will become smaller. Power will shift to stakeholders, reducing the authority of the people who are supposed to lead the organization.”
He emphasized that “The time of the alpha male — of the dominant, typically male leader who knows everything, who gives direction to everybody and sets the pace, whom everybody follows because this person is so smart and intelligent and clever –this time is over. We need a new kind of leader who focuses much more on relationships and understands that leadership is not about himself.”
Those who build and sustain highly successful companies are very much in tune with and leading the kinds of shifts the above studies and observations describe. One good example is Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson who has emphasized the business value of seeking a wide, diverse range of people. Branson writes in Entrepreneur, “Over more than 40 years of building our businesses at the Virgin Group, my colleagues and I have seen time and time again that employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, viewpoints and personalities will help you to spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before your competitors do.”
All of these findings and observations have significant implications for corporate cultures and people’s lives, ambitions and goals — today and tomorrow. What will be the impact on outlook, vision, and management perspectives from the ever-increasing diversity of people, in conjunction with a growing shift in worker’s orientations to the job, to what they look for from management, and to what they define as “success?” All of the above are parts of a broader shift of mentality, values, outlook on life, and behavior. It will shape how people conduct their personal relationships, what they seek from their careers and from public policy, as well. There are many moving parts, and they’re all moving as we speak.