Davos Agenda

5 dimensions of leadership to address complex challenges

What makes an effective leader in 2023? Here are five dimensions of effective leadership.

What makes an effective leader in 2023? Here are five dimensions of effective leadership. Image: World Economic Forum

Klaus Schwab
Founder, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

  • The complexity of the global challenges today requires a renewed focus on what makes an effective leader.
  • Over the past 53 years, the World Economic Forum has brought together many leaders from the public and private sectors to collaborate on solutions.
  • Here are five dimensions of effective leadership.

Today’s leaders face multiple, interconnected challenges, from economic uncertainty to geopolitical fragmentation to the climate crisis. The complexity of these issues requires a renewed focus on what makes an effective leader.

Over the past 53 years, the World Economic Forum has brought together many such leaders from governments, businesses and civil society to debate ideas, share best practices and collaborate on solutions. These leaders are able to overcome challenges, inspire others, and achieve meaningful impact on industries and communities.

Having had the opportunity to meet so many of these leaders over the past five decades, I have formed my own simple, yet practical definition of the key dimensions of effective leadership.

Have you read?

Soul: Clear purpose

Leaders need a clear direction in whatever they choose to do. The driving force behind this purpose may stem from deep beliefs or values that they aspire to live up to, or it may come from an ambitious vision they seek to fulfil. Purpose encapsulates a leader’s life’s dreams, and achieving that purpose helps them define their legacy while leaving a positive impact on the world.

Brains: Professionalism

Leadership requires the competence and skills to successfully perform to achieve goals. Contextual intelligence is also essential, particularly now, as we are living in such a fast-changing environment. Leaders must develop the systems-thinking capacity to see the big picture and connect the dots.

Heart: Passion and compassion

The emotional force behind actions matters. It can often be challenging to succeed because obstacles can crowd out opportunities. But with passion for their work and its potential impact, as well as compassion for others, leaders can engage individuals, communities, and institutions behind a compelling commitment to a common goal.

Muscles: Perseverance to translate ideas into action

Effective leaders provide the energy to drive outcomes and achieve impact. Purpose, professionalism, and passion can only go so far unless leaders also have the power and perseverance to execute on their ideas and see them through.

Good Nerves: Positive mindset

All leaders encounter adversity, disruption and many other sources of stress. Resilience and a positive mindset are critical to mastering such situations and emerging even stronger. “Mens sana in corpore sano”, a Latin phrase meaning “a healthy mind in a healthy body”, is probably the best recipe for resilience as it highlights the power of maintaining a healthy balance in life – mentally, physically, and emotionally.

All five dimensions of leadership are required to successfully deal with the complexity of today’s challenges. More than ever, we need to lead with soul, brains, heart, muscles and good nerves!

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