CEOs increasingly detached from frontline managers, finds DDI report

30 June 2023 2 min. read

Chief executive officers tend to be out of touch with the viewpoints of their frontline managers in critical areas such as inclusion and wellbeing, according to DDI’s CEO Leadership Report 2023. The leadership consulting firm surveyed nearly 14,000 leaders – including 529 CEOs.

While most CEOs had a high degree of confidence in their ability to foster inclusive cultures, only 24% of managers said inclusion was a strong part of their culture.

Similarly, though most CEOs said their companies were well-equipped to prevent burnout, only 27% of managers thought their companies were committed to employee wellbeing.

“Our research suggests CEOs are often out of sync with their managers, who witness firsthand the demanding and complex challenges that play out on the front lines," said Stephanie Neal, director of DDI's center for analytics and behavioral research.

Neal added that CEOs can bridge the gap with their subordinates by tapping into objective data such as leadership assessments.

CEOs increasingly detached from frontline managers, finds DDI report

The DDI report also found that, of the myriad challenges facing them, CEOs felt least prepared to tackle AI and other emerging technologies. Quality of frontline management is a key factor in optimism in this area, with over half (56%) of CEOs with frontline leaders who are rated as “high-quality” believing they can succeed with these technologies. In contrast, only 36% of CEOs with low-quality-rated frontline leaders thought so.

Flexible work continues to be a key tool for enhancing trust and talent retention. Leaders were almost five times more likely to say they trust senior leadership if flex work was common and supported. Meanwhile, CEOs who support flex work were over three times more likely to feel prepared to engage and retain talent than CEOs who didn’t.

"Despite economic uncertainty, we've found talent challenges are still the top concern keeping CEOs up at night," said Tacy Byham, PhD, CEO of DDI. "The first step CEOs should take today is to double down on investments in their people and their culture.”