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Business, Political and Religious Leaders Around the World Fall Short of Expectations
Political leaders here rank better among Singaporeans, according to Ketchum’s Leadership Communication Monitor
· Over 50% of Singaporeans believe that political leaders are the most effective communicators, compared to business and religious leaders
· 65% of Singaporeans believe that leaders need to be open and honest about the challenges ahead amidst challenging economic times
SINGAPORE, March 20, 2012 – Singaporeans feel that political leaders demonstrate the most effective leadership domestically and internationally compared to other types of leaders. This is one of the key local findings of a 12-country survey by global communications firm Ketchum. While the overall study reveals that leaders from business, political and religious life are falling desperately short of expectations around the world – with Europeans and Americans the most disillusioned – Singapore leaders have performed better among their peers.
Amongst Singaporeans, leadership skills that matter include the ability to handle an issue or crisis calmly (68%), to lead by example (66%), to communicate in an open and transparent way (65%), and also be able to articulate a clear long term vision (63%).
They add that the most important action leaders need to take to restore confidence during challenging economic times is to be open and honest about challenges (65%). Over half of Singaporeans (57%) state that effective leadership from business leaders will be very important in terms of navigating the unstable economic future. Most leaders seem to be moving in the right direction, with more than one third of Singaporeans having greater confidence in business (40%) and political leaders (36%) navigating through the economic crisis within their country compared to one year ago.
In terms of industry, 32% feel that the technology industry showed leadership, the highest of any other industry, followed by media (27%) and the banking industry (27%). Consumer goods companies (13%), brewing and spirits (12%) and over-the-counter personal health care product (12%) companies all rank among the lowest in terms of exhibiting leadership.
Effective communications is closely linked to leadership, as eight in ten Singaporeans (80%) stating that effective communication was extremely important to leadership. Singaporeans believe that political leaders (51%), business leaders (47%) and religious leaders (45%) are the most effective communicators, more so than other categories of leaders.
Singaporeans find the most important areas for business leaders to be personally involved in communicating are crisis response (58%) and financial results (58%). When Singaporeans form their views on leaders and leadership, channels that allow for both visual and audio content, such as broadcast media (48%) in-person contact (49%) and televised speeches (47%) are seen as most credible.
Interestingly, residents of Singapore view press releases (57%) as the most credible communication sources when forming opinions about leaders. Online sources such as Twitter (6%), blogs (25%) and other social media platforms (14%) are all much less credible.
In other parts of the world, more people believe leadership will actually get worse in 2012 (31%), compared with anticipating better leadership (27%). Perhaps most concerning, the report found a 28-percentage-point gap between expectations of leaders and their delivery against those expectations.
However, the study reveals leadership credibility in 2012 and beyond requires a combination of decisive action and honest, transparent communication – most effectively achieved through a leader’s personal presence and involvement.
“Our study reveals for the first time the full extent of the world’s disappointment with its leaders across every category of human endeavor,” said Rod Cartwright, Director of Ketchum’s Global Corporate Practice. “But the research is also rich with practical insights – a clear blueprint for more effective leadership and leadership communication. What is clear is that effective leadership and effective communication are inextricably linked.”
Perhaps unexpectedly, the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor found that business leaders were seen as the most effective over the past year – beating politicians, not-for-profit bosses and even religious leaders. More than a third of respondents said they were more confident in business leaders than a year ago, with 36% viewing business as providing effective leadership (receiving an “excellent” rating of 8 or above on a scale of 0-10) and 48% seeing them as effective communicators.
This compared with just 25% of politicians and religious leaders, who achieved the same “excellent” rating. Although expectations of politicians to provide effective leadership in difficult times were higher than any other group (63%), they suffered the lowest vote of confidence, with 47% expecting worse political leadership in 2012.
Within the business community, knowledge-based industries were perceived as having the most effective bosses. Ranked highest on leadership effectiveness was technology, with a 44% approval rating, followed by media (39%) and telecommunications (36%). Banking chiefs came in fourth overall in the poll worldwide with 32%. The energy sector and financial services leaders were ranked fifth (31%) and sixth (30%) respectively. Consumer business leaders lagged far behind on leadership, with consumer packaged goods placed lowest at 20%.
Perhaps most significant for the business community, the research underlines a direct link between positive perceptions of leadership and business-critical decisions such as a willingness to buy stock, goods and services or recommend working at a company. This explains crisis response being seen as the most important area for business leaders to communicate personally (53%), followed by financial results (48%) and the state of the business (40%).
Personal Leadership and Powerful Communication – A Direct Link
Clear, transparent communication topped the table of key leadership behaviors. For 84%, effective communication is extremely important to strong leadership, while 48% rated it as the number one factor. However, action matters – with tough decision-making, leading by example and calm crisis-handling following immediately behind.
The study also revealed that globally, the number one action leaders should take to restore confidence in 2012 is to be open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenge ahead (57% US; 52% Europe v s. 43% China). By contrast, only 17% indicated a preference for leaders to spare them the full picture to avoid panic.
Trustworthiness was seen as the number one source of leadership credibility for corporations, placed above quality of management and financial strength. In order to win that trust, the report found that the personal “presence” and involvement of a leader in communicating was vital. As a result, communication via face-to-face and traditional media left social media trailing. 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 and social media were well off pace, with blogs at 20%, Facebook at 16%, advertising at 13% and Twitter at just 8%.
Cartwright said: “It is clear that mainstream media still carries a great deal of credibility. When it comes to digital and social media, the message is that most people don’t believe that the leader is actually involved. This doesn’t mean we should conclude that these channels are redundant as a vehicle for establishing credible leadership – quite the contrary. Rather, it underlines the absolute imperative of making the ‘presence’ of the leader shine through.”