Chinese consumers slate poor CEO comms in annual Ketchum report

Purchasing decisions are increasingly punishing bad leadership in China, with food and beverage and telecommunications at the most risk

The findings were released from the fourth-annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor
The findings were released from the fourth-annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor

Only 33 percent of respondents in China to a Ketchum's survey believe company leaders communicate effectively, according to the agency's fourth annual leadership study.

As with all previous years of the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, the research finds open and transparent communication to be critical to effective leadership. For the fourth year in a row, open and transparent communication is a top-ranking attribute globally (68 percent) and within China (67 percent). Yet, only 24 percent globally and 33 percent in China feel leaders communicate effectively, with a 44-point and 34-point gap between expectation and delivery.

Perceptions of good corporate leadership are important as the survey shows people are making purchasing decisions that punish bad leadership.Nearly half of Chinese respondents polled (47 percent) have stopped purchasing or purchased less due to poor leadership behavior and 46 percent have started purchasing or purchased more from a company where a leader is seen to be performing well.

In China, consumer technology and consumer packaged goods are the industries more likely to feel the effects of positive leadership behavior on product sales, whereas the food and beverage and telecommunications industries are more likely to feel the effects of negative leadership behavior.

"It has become apparent over the last few years of this study that effective communication is a necessity for today’s leaders, and that is a sentiment that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon," said Bruce Shu, managing director, Ketchum Greater China. "China’s more positive perception of its leaders is not an insight we take lightly. The connections between leadership, communications and sales demonstrate that leadership and reputation should be both protected and cultivated."

Overall, Chinese respondents showed a higher level of belief in their business leaders than elsewhere in the world. Around the world, the greatest belief resides in high-growth economies like China (43 percent), India (54 percent) and Brazil (43 percent). By contrast, respondents in struggling European economies believe far less in the effectiveness of business leaders, with only 11 percent of the French, 18 percent of the Spanish, 21 percent of Britons and 27 percent of Germans giving business leaders top marks.
Because of its higher than average belief in the effectiveness of its business leaders, China still looks mainly to the top level for leadership (74 percent), with 35 percent of Chinese respondents believing that leadership should be provided by the CEO only. Only 26 percent believe that leadership should come from the company overall, compared to 41 percent globally.
The survey also identified the top three traditional attributes that Chinese believe an effective leader should possess: leading by example (66 percent), bringing out the best in others (62 percent), and handling controversial issues or crises calmly and confidently (62 percent). Beyond these, they also feel that it’s important for a great leader to be charismatic (65 percent, much higher than the global average of 49 percent), friendly (63 percent) and intelligent (63 percent). Another interesting finding is that 46 percent of Chinese respondents believe it is very important for a leader to be an extrovert, which is above the global average of 36 percent.

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