As always, the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos had a very eclectic agenda. Nevertheless, by looking at the pattern of presentations and discussions there, it’s possible to glimpse the leadership zeitgeist, how it’s changing, and the implications.
Two years ago, the meeting in Davos focused heavily on harnessing technological innovation. Last year, this theme was overshadowed by fears of a potential economic slowdown and rising geopolitical risk. I focused my 2019 summary on resilience in the face of multiple intersecting risks.
This year, the emphasis was strikingly different. The official theme of the event was “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” Climate change and multi-stakeholder capitalism were strongly represented in the official agenda, and both themes dominated side conversations.
Fears related to the economy were diminished and overshadowed by those focus themes. And the optimism around technology was tempered by a significant degree of skepticism and mistrust concerning issues like data privacy, algorithmic ethics, and voter manipulation.
We asked more than 100 business leaders at a BCG dinner what was their most important resolution as a leader for the decade ahead. The biggest emphasis was on societal and planetary issues, mirroring the official program. (See Exhibit 1.)