Danny Rogers: True leadership is about decisiveness

Public confidence in political leaders is higher in China than in many Western countries, according to a survey this week by global PR network Ketchum.

Danny Rogers: True leadership is about decisiveness
Danny Rogers: True leadership is about decisiveness

This ‘leadership communication monitor’ also found 84 per of the people questioned said good communication was ‘extremely important’ to effective leadership.

On this logic Chinese political leaders are communicating better than their Western counterparts, which sounds a tad surprising for what is still a one-party state with relatively low press freedom.

Ketchum instead draws the conclusion that the public confidence derives from the more buoyant ‘tiger’ economies in countries such as China. This is probably right – after all, ‘it’s the economy, stupid’. But what lessons should political leaders in the West learn from such a study, when economic growth looks sluggish for some time, and particularly in Budget week?

It is certainly true that more openness and transparency do tend to result in higher levels of trust. But the challenge is more complex for politicians in this country; as shown by a report this week by another PR agency, TLG, revealing the varying degrees of negativity towards the economic situation by different UK media.

According to this survey, the Chancellor George Osborne faces a relatively critical native media landscape. Ex-government director of comms Alastair Campbell has written much on the inherent and increasing negativity of British media. And what satisfies the Financial Times is unlikely to please the Daily Mirror.

As a result, this Budget tends to have ‘something for everyone’ without upsetting too many stakeholder groups. It must be a difficult, stressful balancing act. And at the end of the day we’re all left confused as to the underlying direction.

What is missing is the true leadership that derives from authenticity. The Chinese leadership, despite being autocratic and uneasily straddling the ideologies of communism and capitalism, is at least consistent.

Of course a coalition government is always going to find it harder to communicate any guiding principles and direction. But true leadership is surely about having a vision, taking definite steps to deliver that vision and communicating how that project is going. If the public is dissatisfied it can fail to re-elect that government in the next election.

Pragmatic and tactical governments may think they can sustain themselves for longer, but history will be a harsher judge. Western economies are crying out for leadership and communication, but the underlying demand is for decisiveness, bravery and character.

Also read: Negative media hinder George Osborne's Budget

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