[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the April 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]

Coming toward the end of a year in which uncertainty, volatility and hardship had already become commonplace, the moment video-conferencing platform Zoom Video Communications Inc. zoomed past Exxon Mobil Corp. in total market value followed an even more catastrophic moment in April 2020, when WTI traded below $0/bbl. Coupled with longer-term underperformance and pressure from activist investors, and the quickening pace of the energy transition, it seemed as if everything in the energy industry was turning upside down. Most industry leaders were unprepared for this new reality. How they lead in the next decade could very well make or break the industry.

As the petroleum industry continues to navigate unprecedented price and secular decline and falls out of favor with investors, the real competition in the next decade will not be for customers, but leaders. From front-line managers to operating executives, CEOs and corporate directors, these new leaders will be in urgent demand to reshape, reposition and transform an industry that the world requires—and depends upon—more than we know.

This paper is a result of over a year-long effort which included more than 400 conversations with industry leaders, a survey of almost 100 CEOs, directors and investors, and our analysis of assessments of 183 industry leaders using Heidrick & Struggles’ proprietary leadership assessment framework, META (Mobilize, Execute and Transform with Agility).

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