Executive qualities for the year 2000

Many of the business, social, and political trends that will be prominent in the year 2000 already are emerging today. women and minorities are entering the ranks of top management, economic decision-making is becoming "politicized" through the growing involvement of outside groups in corporate affairs, and steadily mounting pressure is being exerted on the private enterprise system.

These and other developments will pose a series of complex challenges to the corporation and its leaders in the years ahead.

The challenge of changing technology will be enormous. Over the past 25 years scientific research and development have astonished us so frequently that they have almost exhausted our capacity for amazement. In the future, technological advances will offer us such benefits as computer terminals at home , portable offices, and freedom from routine, dangerous and undesirable work that will be taken over by automation. Top management will become "remote management" -- directing corporate activities through the display on a terminal and by the touch of a button.

Another challenge facing corporate leadership in the year 2000 will emerge from the growing complexity of the external environment in which business will operate.

Feeding, clothing, and housing an estimated seven billion people in the world at the turn of the century will place significant pressures on business management to produce steadily at expanding rates. At the same time, the struggle for world markets will intensify among companies around the world, while the United States, even if it can bring petroleum imports under control, will continue its inexorable drift toward more reliance on others for such raw materials as chromium, copper, tin, aluminum, and other key materials.

The third challenge I see at the turn of the century -- at the start of the second millenium -- is that of coping with more difficult internal corporate structures. By the year 2000, the bulk of post-World War II babyboom babies will bulge the ranks of middle and senior management. What may unfold is a situation where a sizable number of well- educated individuals will not be able to find positions commensurate with their training. The resultant unmet expectations and underutilized skills may lead to increasing restiveness among middle managers, and motivating these employees not only to "work harder" but also to "work smarter" will pose a supreme test for the manager of the future.

Thus, the chief executive at the turn of the century will need to possess qualities that differentiate -- or her -- from the majority of his predecessors:

* He will need to have a decidedly global perspective. The growth of world trade and international economic competition has given rise to an interdependent world economy requiring the chief executive to view his company's overseas and domestic interests as integrated parts of an overall management pattern.

* He will be more involved with strategy than his predecesors, anticipating and planning for constant change, and he will be expected to provide the vision, state the mission, and set the tone for his organization's future. Decision-making on matters of day-to- day performance will become less critical.

* The chief executive in the year 2000 also will have to be more broadly gauged to deal with the delicate and divergent internal and external forces of the day. In addition to being a "generalist," in the very best sense of the word -- with a feel for history, politics, literature, current events, and the arts -- he will have to be sensitive to public opinion and respectful of the public franchise over which he presides.

* The changing attitudes and aspirations of his workforce will test the chief executive's human-relations skills; his ability to deal with the growing pressures for job enlargement, more flexible scheduling, more equality of opportunity, a greater voice in corporate decision-making.

* The CEP (chief executive officer) of the future will also have to demonstrate an unstinting commitment to the fundamental morality of democratic capitalism, and to the belief that only through the private enterprise system will the world's expanding population be able to progress.

* Twenty years from now CEOs will have to have an increased capacity to cope with the expanding social forces that will play on their enterprises. They will spend more time lobbying legislators, persuading dissident stockholders, and meeting face-to-face with special interest groups.

* Finally, and perhaps most important, the chief executive in the year 2000 will have a personal responsibility for advocacy, activism, and outspokenness. Increasingly he will be expected to represent articulately and coherently his company and industry to their critics.

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