Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
January 23, 2023

Leadership Trends from CES 2023

The technology industry is being challenged in 2023 in a way that it hasn’t experienced in perhaps decades. Investors have grown jittery about growth prospects — the tech-heavy NASDAQ lost more than a quarter of its value last year — and companies across the sector have begun painful layoffs that have rocked the job market.

Amid this environment, however, was a welcome oasis: CES 2023. After COVID-19 led to cancellation in 2021 and limited in-person participation in 2022, the annual event was back in Las Vegas this year and felt closer to the events of old: stunning technology, new gadgets and passionate in-person conversations about the future.

Below are some of the leadership trends we saw at play in Las Vegas this year.

Amid downturn, organizational optimization is top of mind

From layoffs at industry giants like Amazon, Meta and Microsoft to the headline-grabbing cost-cutting moves at Elon Musk’s Twitter, the pressure of today’s economic environment is clearly forcing the industry to take a renewed look at increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

For an industry where it’s been perhaps decades since the last true downturn, the leadership challenges are immense, and we are seeing many leaders cast a critical eye on their own leadership. How do you lead in a challenged market? What does it mean for “empathetic leadership”? If your leaders have never led in this type of environment, how do you help them pivot? How do you continue to innovate with leaner teams, a demand for operational rigor and a closer eye on budgets? How do you maintain parts of your organizational culture while adjusting for the future state? Are succession plans up-to-date and robust throughout the organization from the board to the director level?

We expect to continue to see many technology industry leaders asking these questions in 2023.

Technology’s cross-industry impact remains the name of the game

The metaverse, gaming and autonomous everything remained conversation topics in the tech industry at CES, but it was these technologies’ cross-industry application that stood out in Las Vegas.

Examples include the metaverse’s use in industrial settings and the ever-increasing use of computer power and chip sets as an enabler and differentiator in industries ranging from space travel to agriculture. One interesting example we saw was the use of digital LiDAR — light detection and ranging for sensing an object in 3D, best known for its use in metrology (measurement) and robotics — in new areas beyond autonomous driving, including identifying hot spots and congestion areas inside a store or a convention center.

Overall, when it comes to technology leadership, the big issue today is whether leaders and their teams are capable of thinking in an unbiased way about how to do things, and about where to look for their next ecosystem partner or business model.

Resilient leadership remains key

Leaders today are feeling the pressure: They know that in order to thrive they have to innovate, yet they must do so amid inflation, economic headwinds, regulatory headaches, continued supply chain disruptions and other challenges.

Now is as good a time as ever for boards and C-suite leaders to look at ensuring that their organizations — as well as they as leaders — are resilient enough to thrive in the short and long term. How well connected are you with your customers? Does your board and leadership team represent your customer base? Does your board have the expertise needed to consider future technology, security/risk and compliance? How are you addressing increased scrutiny of sustainability, and what further steps are needed?