Public has 'crisis of confidence' in leaders

NEW YORK: Leaders around the world are failing to meet public expectations, according to a global study by Ketchum.

NEW YORK: Leaders around the world are failing to meet public expectations, according to a global study by Ketchum.

The agency interviewed 3,700 consumers in 12 countries. Thirty-one percent of those reached believe corporate, political, and religious leadership will get worse this year, compared with the 27% that think it will improve.

More respondents said business leaders provide effective leadership (36%) than politicians and religious leaders (both 25%). Although 63% of consumers said they expect politicians to provide effective leadership in difficult times, nearly half (47%) said they expect worse political leadership this year.  

The agency carried out the study to examine how leadership and communications intersect, said Rod Cartwright, director of Ketchum's global corporate practice.

“There is a potent problem, which is a crisis of confidence of leaders as leaders, and leaders as communicators,” he said. “There's a huge gap between expectation and delivery.”

The vast majority of respondents (84%) said effective communication is very important to leadership, with nearly half (48%) calling it the No. 1 factor. Those surveyed also cited tough decision-making, leading by example, and the ability to handle crises calmly are as next most important factors to build effective leadership.

Ketchum also found that both Americans and Europeans are more unhappy with their political leaders than consumers in emerging markets. Respondents also said traditional media are much more credible communications platforms for leaders than social media channels, such as Twitter.  

Cartwright explained that upon seeing those results, the firm wondered whether blogs and social media are overhyped as effective leadership communications tactics. However, it realized that “the reason print, broadcast, speaker opportunities, and personal appearances more naturally lend themselves is because the leader is automatically present in communicating,” and that people crave personal involvement with their leaders.

Face-to-face contact provided the greatest source of leadership credibility (50%), followed by televised speeches (43%), broadcast media (41%), and print media (38%). Digital platforms scored much lower, with blogs at 20%, Facebook at 16%, advertising at 13%, and Twitter at just 8%.

The study also found that knowledge-based industries are perceived to have the most effective leadership. Technology leaders secured a 44% approval rate, followed by leaders in media (39%), and telecommunications (36%). Consumer business leaders were far behind, while consumer packaged goods industry leaders scored the lowest rating (20%).

“From a PR perspective, it was interesting because organizations that are product- and brand-led are perhaps struggling to break through from a corporate leadership perspective,” Cartwright said.

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