Meet the CEOs of the future – why we launched the Raconteur 50

Our list of 50 outstanding CEOs looked way beyond financial performance to the new, complex identity of today’s business leader 

CEOs of the future

The role of the modern-day CEO is evolving. It has to, because the business landscape – and, indeed, the world – is changing so rapidly. Unprecedented challenge has been heaped upon unprecedented challenge. Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine, not to mention broader geopolitical conflict and climate change, have caused countless supply chain issues and led to concerns around workplace wellbeing and business resilience.

To lead an organisation in this environment, executives can no longer focus merely on financial performance. CEOs must now find ways to innovate and grow amid economic uncertainty, develop and nurture their people to adapt to the future of work and find ways to become more sustainable in every sense of the word. 

This is why we launched the Raconteur 50. To celebrate this new generation of leaders and hold up examples of those who are successfully balancing these conflicting priorities and finding ways to thrive. 

The CEO of the future must… take a stand

According to this year’s edition of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, an annual measure of trust across different facets of society, employer CEOs saw the greatest increase in trust (six percentage points) of any role. Only scientists and teachers are more trusted, with 32,000 respondents globally saying they trust their CEO more than they trust their fellow citizens, their neighbours, journalists or government leaders. 

This newly gained trust can enable decision-makers to take a stand or challenge the status quo. And, this opportunity should not be overlooked. Edelman’s survey found that employees want their CEO to speak out on topics including job skills of the future, the ethical use of technology and the impact automation will have on jobs. More significantly still, 62% of respondents said that they expect CEOs to manage changes occurring in society, not simply those occurring in their own businesses.

And, many leaders are rising to the challenge, as is reflected in the Raconteur 50’s Industry Champions category. Whether or not these CEOs describe themselves as “activists in business clothing”, these 10 leaders are using their platforms to change things for the better. From improving the employment landscape for people from minority-ethnic backgrounds to championing workplace mental health to tackling climate change, these CEOs are taking action.

Joining them in making the world a better place are the Wavemakers – those who have built ESG values into their very business models. These 10 leaders are showing their commitment to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit by cleaning up their supply chains, finding new ways to recycle, or making products in more sustainable ways.

The CEO of the future must… try something new 

It’s not just the priorities of the CEO that are changing, but also the candidates for the role. Last year the average age of CEOs fell from 56 to 53, according to consultancy Korn Ferry – a small but significant drop after years of no movement. 

In addition, a growing number of leaders are attaining the top role for the first time ever. Management consultancy Russell Reynolds found that in 2023 88% of newly appointed CEOs were first-timers, having never held the chief executive role.

We recognise this trend in our New Faces category. All 10 of these first-time executives have taken the role since 2020 and have made their mark, bringing new energy and ideas to their businesses.

Even for those who are not new to the role, the past few years have been an opportunity to try new things – and our New Frontiers category celebrates the CEOs who have been doing just that. From expanding into new regions to launching new product lines, these 10 leaders have not let the difficult economic conditions hold back their ambitions. 

The CEO of the future must… be resilient

Finally, no list of outstanding leaders can ignore the economic turmoil of the past few years. We wanted our final category, the Revolutionisers, to recognise those who have managed to steer their organisations through hard times. Some of our Revolutionisers found ways to weather the Covid storm, keeping their people together and clients happy. Others have undergone complicated mergers, acquisitions or exits, or were grappling with spiking supply chain costs after Brexit. One even managed to lead his organisation through a war. 

These are the CEOs of the future. Bold, purpose-driven and resilient, they have demonstrated that it is possible to succeed in business today without compromising your morals and while still growing, innovating and learning. We are thrilled to celebrate these leaders and we look forward to bringing you their insights and advice over the next 12 months.

Explore the Raconteur 50 here.