Playing the Numbers

By Jonathan Dahl; originally published by Korn Ferry in Briefings Magazine.  

If you type the number 2022 into a search engine, you may discover that those who follow meaning in numbers see good things ahead—success among them. Given that we’re toward the end of the pandemic, that’s not a bad outlook to have as another new year approaches.

I think most of us are looking forward to the coming year. How could we not? We’re at the tail end, hopefully, of a horrific pandemic and a string of one lockdown after another. The latest predictions I’ve seen have economic growth a tad slower from 2021, which might actually be helpful from a supply-chain and staffing standpoint, given the headaches firms have been feeling trying to keep goods flowing and find enough hires to keep up with pent-up consumer demand. Most firms, I figure, will also work out their in-office/remote/hybrid work dance as the year progresses, increasing both productivity and morale.

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Whiplash Leadership

By Russell Pearlman; originally published in Briefings magazine.

For most organizations, it began in mid-March 2020.  Not just the pandemic and the slew of business lockdowns, of course, but the round after round of decision making.

The first wave of decisions had many leaders choosing to send millions of employees home rather than shutting down operations altogether. This was going to be for two weeks only, many said, just long enough for COVID-19 to extinguish itself. Other corporations, meanwhile, soon decided to forge on, asking key workers back into the office with health screenings and glass partitions. That move was reversed when a handful of workers caught the virus.

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The Great Resignation…by Remote Workers

Originally posted to on June 17, 2021. 

The Great Resignation. It’s been the headline of the day and the topic that looms large at any company trying to snap back to business quickly. The question is, which group is bolting the fastest?

According to many business leaders and human resources pros, the largest pool of employees quitting is those doing remote work. That comes as a surprise to some who were hoping that allowing workers to stay at home this past year and a half would increase people’s satisfaction in their roles when the time came to return. Instead, many are apparently preferring to test the job market even when they are not asked to return to the office.

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The Human Touch

Originally posted to Korn Ferry’s Briefings magazine, issue 49 on June 10, 2021.  

Almost 100 years after Mayo and Roethlisberger began the conversation about human relations, a new iteration is taking form. Some call it “radical humanity.” Others use the term “humanocracy.” The essence remains. It is about purpose powering performance, rather than performance being the purpose. It’s a plea for businesses to put people and planet before, or at least alongside, profit. For leaders to have the courage to challenge old ways of thinking and to take on the big issues. It’s a yearning to use our creative faculties in collaboration with one another. A demand for empathy. For decades, workers have divided their identities into work and personal. Radically human workplaces, say the idealists, create the potential to harness the full expression of self for a purpose bigger than self. “It’s about a higher quality of existence,” says Jaime Maxwell-Grant, a Korn Ferry senior client partner.

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Enterprise Leadership: New leadership for a new world

Originally posted to on May 4, 2021. 

Today’s leaders are being asked to simultaneously run the business and change the business. But Korn Ferry research shows that only 14% of leaders have what it takes.

CEOs today are leading in a world moving through crisis and disruption—where challenges have no known solutions, or if they do, there are far too many choices and few clear ones. Yet even while driving change amidst all this uncertainty, they need to keep the trains running on time.

This expectation that CEOs will transform the business while they maintain strong performance is not exactly new; it’s a trend that has been on an upward trajectory for years. But the current landscape has only accelerated this need. Keep employees safe or maintain efficient operations. Seek big and bold ideas or continue with the current strategy. Scale the company or focus on the core customer.

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Becoming a Leader: 6 Ideas for Today’s World

Originally posted to on April 29, 2021.

Becoming a better leader normally involves, well, being a leader. Indeed, most leadership experts say about 70% of learning and development comes from challenging assignments that force leaders to learn new skills. The rest of that development usually involves hours of training seminars, working with coaches, and dedicating oneself to become more self-aware, mindful, and reflective.

In a pandemic, of course, much of that training wasn’t possible. But the skill sets for being a strong leader—of a team, a department, or an entire company—couldn’t have been more in demand, and still are. Only these days, leadership-building advice has been shifting, with greater emphasis on careful listening, more transparency, and greater probing. Below, a host of our tips—some fairly standard, some unorthodox—to grow into a better leader.

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Learning Agility from the Inside Out

Originally posted to on April 14, 2021.  

Agile learners are hungry for more. More knowledge. More experiences. More skills.

These learners find lessons in everything they do. They are endlessly curious—relentless in their pursuit of new facts and information. They take risks, both big and small, exploring new and novel situations. They look back on those experiences, with mindfulness and intention, applying what they’ve learned to future events.

Curiosity, risk-taking, and reflection are central to Learning Agility. People who are highly learning agile have a sense of wonder, a readiness to seek out the unfamiliar, and an ability to unpack this new knowledge in actionable ways. And in today’s ever-evolving, ever-challenging business landscape, these qualities are in great demand, seen increasingly as critical to a company’s success.

Yet, although Learning Agility as a construct is nothing new, learning agile leaders are still in low supply. For decades, organizations have tried to develop a more agile workforce, with talent flexing and strengthening their Learning Agility muscles through stretch assignments and high-stakes turnarounds. But, experts say, the challenges of recent years have created a new dilemma: agile leaders are needed more today than ever before, yet in a world that’s much more digital and much more insulated, the traditional ways of developing agility may no longer be enough.

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Back to the Office, Now!

Originally posted to

The news must have created a sudden “gulp” feeling among many: New York City ordered all 80,000 of its remote-working employees back to the office the first week of May, a move that experts say could encourage at least some firms to speed up plans to end the work-at-home era.

The announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio comes at a time when nearly seven in 10 employers have said in a recent survey that workers need to be back at the office at least part of the time. The critical decision is how to go about that transition, either with a quick trigger as New York is doing or more gradually. “Most of our clients are taking a conservative and cautious approach,” says Anthony LoPinto, Korn Ferry’s global sector leader for real estate and managing director of the firm’s New York office. At the same time, how competitors respond to this latest development could shift some of that thinking. “Most companies are tracking what others are doing, so it may be a factor,” he says.

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The Long Goodbye

Originally posted to on March 3, 2021.  

No more commuting to work. More time at the house with the family. And never setting foot on a plane for an exhausting business trip.

In one of the stranger twists of the pandemic, a small but surprising number of older executives have discovered they’re arguably better off in today’s remote-work world—enough to put off retiring. To be sure, they’re still energized, working hard, and dealing with the work stress that the pandemic has brought on. “But I’m hearing the upsides are making it worth it to stay on,” says Kevin Cashman, global leader of CEO and executive development at Korn Ferry.

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Anguish in the Remote C-Suite

Originally posted to on February 10, 2021.

Unlike some of their younger, lower-level peers, CEOs most likely haven’t spent the pandemic working in a cramped apartment with roommates. They probably carved out a comfortable space for work at home, if they didn’t have a home office already, complete with all the hardware and software needed. They most likely haven’t had to move back in with their parents or stretched in other ways to save money, either.

Yet even without having to deal with many of the more common pandemic struggles, an overwhelming and surprising number of C-suite executives say the toll on them personally has been dramatic. Indeed, 85% of top bosses around the world say they have had significant challenges adjusting to remote work, versus 77% of all employees who say the same thing, according to a new survey from the business software giant Oracle. More than half, 53%, say they have struggled with mental health issues, compared to 45% of all employees.

While the numbers may sound surprising, experts say the reasons behind the high levels of anguish around remote work are not. CEOs, CFOs, and everyone else at the top of the corporate ladder have lost the ability to interact physically with employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders. Connecting this way is a key facet of their leadership skills, and in many cases, helped propel them to the top of the corporate world in the first place. It’s been particularly difficult for CEOs who normally work in large corporate offices or who derive energy from speaking to large groups. “People get inspired by those who are around them,” says Tierney Remick, a Korn Ferry vice chair and coleader of the firm’s Board and CEO Services practice.

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