What does US National Football League star quarterback Peyton Manning have in common with the best chief executives of today and the future? Is it intelligence? The ability to command a room? To think fast on his feet? It may be all of the above.

What it takes to be a leader — and what future executive suites may look like — was a topic several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this week, from quarterback-as-CEO to the end of the white, male executive to the future of women in the upper echelons of corporations.

Here is what some of them had to say.

Gary Burnison, Chief Executive Officer at Korn/Ferry International

Peyton Manning, quarterback for the NFL’s Denver Broncos has been “flawless so far this season. He and his team find a way to win,” wrote Burnison in his post Peyton Manning Would Make an Even Better CEO. His stats speak for themselves: He has thrown 20 touchdowns in the five games that have been played this season and has a 150-70 win-loss record over his 15 seasons of play.

“At any leadership level, like President, CEO, or sports figure — the great leaders rise above and represent the team more than themselves. Leaders demonstrate that they are in charge and in control. And part of being in charge is their belief they will overcome the odds and win — and they do,” Burnison wrote.  “Much of this is driven by their aura of confidence, a presence that permeates the culture. This is apparent in Peyton Manning’s deep belief that he and his team will make it.”

So what might Manning look like as a CEO? “In running a business, he would have the company ahead of projections month after month. He would anticipate issues and adjust the company to a changing environment — like calling an audible at the line of scrimmage,” Burnison wrote.

Manning has one characteristic in particular which is becoming increasingly important for leaders. That trait is “learning agility”.

“Learning agility is the willingness and ability to learn from experience and then apply those lessons to succeed in new situations,” wrote Burnison. “Leaders who are learning agile continuously seek new challenges, solicit direct feedback, self-reflect, and get jobs done resourcefully.”

Steve Tappin, Chief Executive Officer at Xinfu, host of BBC CEO Guru

Are the days of the white male chief executive coming to an end? That’s the question Tappin addressed in his post End of Days For White, Male, Stale CEOs? His answer: a resounding yes.

“We are about to witness an unprecedented leadership shift over the next decade,” Tappin wrote. “Expect a transformation: the two-thirds of Western CEOs who are really professional managers — incrementally optimising their companies around the short-term — will go. They’ll be leapfrogged by a new breed of CEOs running on an emerging market fuel, powered by dreams, entrepreneurship, innovation and belief.”

One need only look at market predictions about global companies to get a sense of why, he wrote. “According to a new report from McKinsey Global Institute, Urban World: The Shifting Global Business Landscape, an amazing 70% of the predicted 88% growth in large companies between now and 2025 will come from the emerging markets.”

“Where will future leaders come from, and what will this mean for the white, male-dominated elite currently running the show in America and Europe?,” asked Tappin. “I believe that we will see a rise of global entrepreneurs building sustainable value.”  

Where will these new CEOs come from? Tappin pointed to the BRICs — the block of emerging market countries comprised of Brazil, Russia, India and China. “The BRIC countries all have their challenges, but they could be set to turn these to their advantage. Their entrepreneurs are more likely to have suffered hardship in their upbringing, and don’t underestimate their driving determination to secure a legacy for their families, future generations and their country,” he wrote.  “Their companies are often younger, and a stronger family orientation can mean that, like the South Koreans and Japanese who rose before them, they are able to set their time horizon over the longer term.”

Sallie Krawcheck, former head of Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney

With her investment in women’s networking group 85 Broads, Krawcheck has become outspoken on the lack of women in executive and board roles. Now, she wrote in her post What Winning Companies Get… And Others Won’t, “We are in a bull market for advice to women on how to get ahead in their companies.”

“Smart companies…are recognising that the inherent differences among genders and cultures are not things to be fixed, but are instead sources of strength. It is exactly these differences that drive the higher returns, lower volatility and greater innovation that accrue to more diverse companies,” Krawcheck wrote.

What will this look like? Krawcheck wrote that “smart companies will embrace and draw on these differences… They will change their evaluation systems to eliminate “cascading bias,” in which the qualities of the existing (typically white, male) leadership team are reinforced and other types of skills are undervalued.”

By doing this, more women will reach higher levels and executive roles. “It won’t happen quickly. But companies that don’t take this action will increasingly lose out,” Krawcheck wrote.

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