A Page From the New Leadership Playbook

MIT SMR and Cognizant recently explored what the future of work portends for the future of leadership.

As digitalization and other critical factors influence the nature of work and ways of working, we discovered that what it means to be a successful leader is evolving. Our global executive study identifies a mix of specific behaviors, mindsets, and skills that will help leaders become the most effective stewards in the digital economy.

About the Research

In the spring of 2019, MIT Sloan Management Review and Cognizant surveyed 4,394 global leaders, conducted 27 executive interviews, and facilitated focus group exchanges with next-gen emerging leaders worldwide to explore what the future of work portends for the future of leadership. Before the survey design was finalized, it was tested for validity and distributed for academic peer review. To further validate the qualitative aspects of the research via the interviews, we performed a heat map and sentiment analysis of the responses from more than 500 pages of interview notes to identify the most salient issues to be addressed in the study.

Are Leaders Ready for the Digital Economy?

Survey respondents indicated a strong personal optimism among global executives about their readiness to lead, but less confidence in their organizations.


71% agree
they are prepared to lead in the digital economy.


48% agree
their organizations are ready to lead in the digital economy.


40% agree
their organizations are building the leadership pipeline they need to succeed.

Three Types of Behaviors Affect Readiness to Lead Into the Future


Many eroding behaviors were at one time viewed as normative but are today considered less important or even counterproductive.

Examples include:

relying on hierarchy for influence, and command-and-control decision-making


Some time-tested leadership attributes and behaviors are still viewed as critical in the new leadership playbook.

Examples include:

ethics, trust, and integrity


Some behaviors that may not have appeared in a company’s leadership framework five years ago are becoming more critical to success.

Examples include:

digital savviness and flexibility

The 3E’s Diagnostic:
Assess Your Own Leadership Style

Through our research, we have identified a set of behaviors that are essential for leaders of today and tomorrow — as well as behaviors that are becoming irrelevant or detrimental to leaders.* Take this assessment to find out where your leadership skills stand.

Put the 3E’s Diagnostic to Use.

Download a worksheet to conduct an assessment with your leadership team. This will be a great starting point for developing future-ready leaders — an essential component of your company’s long-term business success.

For More, Read the MIT SMR/Cognizant Report, “The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age”

Explore findings from the 2020 Future of Leadership Global Executive Study and Research Report.

* Douglas Ready, a report coauthor, developed a version of this diagnostic prior to working with MIT SMR and Cognizant.