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The traditional command and control style of leadership is fading while openness, and employee empowerment is on the rise in the management style of chief executive officers around the world, according to a survey by IBM.

The study interviewed more than 1,700 CEOs from 64 countries including Canada and found those whose companies outperform the competition are also the most likely to have leaders who are cultivating the collective intelligence of their employees and championing the use of social media.

A notable shift in thinking is the emphasis CEOs are placing on staying on top of changes in technology, said Pierre Morin, partner in global business services at IBM Canada. Asked what external force will impact the organization the most over the next three to five years, technology came out as number one for most all of the CEOs. When the same question was asked in four previous surveys dating back to 2004, the top answer each time was economic and market factors.

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Another significant change was the emphasis CEOs put on their employees. CEOs said a priority is to develop strategies to use to keep employees creative and flexible in a fast changing business environment.

The first priority identified by the executives is creating unconventional teams: intentionally mixing specialties and expertise so that employees will have experience with a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and mindsets.

A second strategy is encouraging experiential learning by broadening the range of situations and experiences employees encounter in their daily work.

And the third is encouraging employees to develop diverse and extensive networks of contacts, which is becoming increasingly easy through the use of social media.

While social media is the least utilized of all communication methods CEOs use today, it stands to become the number two organizational engagement method within the next five years, a close second to face-to-face interactions, the study found.

To forge closer connections with customers, partners and a new generation of employees in the future, CEOs said they will be shifting their focus from using e-mail and the phone as primary communication vehicles to using social networks. While just 16 per cent of CEOs said they are using social business platforms to connect with individuals, 57 per cent said they expect to use them as primary communications channels within the next three to five years.

Canadian CEOs also appear to be more open to outside collaboration, with suppliers, clients, and other companies than CEOs in any other country. While the study didn't explore why, the study team has a hypothesis that as a small market, Canadian companies need to be more open to external collaboration, Mr. Morin said.

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But in fact, collaboration is on the rise everywhere, with 67 per worldwide saying they plan more partnerships outside the company and just 4 per cent saying they intend to do everything in-house.

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