A Crisis of Leadership… And a Blueprint for Surmounting It…

Last month, I posted that despite the unprecedented scrutiny focused on leaders in 2011, this new era of the intense public microscope was actually an opportunity for communicators, but also a very real responsibility.

Helping to put some flesh on the bones of that assertion, Ketchum recently released the findings of a new study – the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor – exploring the perceptions of over 3,700 people in 12 countries on effective leadership, effective communication and the intrinsic link between the two.

The results reveal not only an unambiguous crisis of confidence in leadership, but also on a clear blueprint that leaders and their advisors can follow in rebuilding confidence. Essentially, a simple formula revealed by the research that leadership credibility hinges on a blend of decisive action, open communication and a leader’s personal presence.

So what did we find? Well, you’ll find far more on the study – including video, an infographic and the full findings – on our site. But as a teaser, the research revealed a simple game of two halves and classic problem/solution set of outcomes. Here’s an overview of the seven facets of the crisis of leadership we unearthed, together with the seven-part blueprint for success  that will help restore confidence in leaders:

Leadership in Crisis…

  1. A crisis in every sense: The global economic crisis is matched by a crisis of confidence in leaders and how they communicate
  2. An expectation of leadership … and of disappointment: The world is still looking to leaders steer us through troubled waters, but expects to be let down.
  3. Talk to me! Leaders across the board score nearly as badly on communication and they did on leadership itself — yet effective communication is seen as critical to effective leadership.
  4. Doing the business: Corporations come out on top as leaders and communicators — with bankers perhaps surprisingly coming in globally at #4.
  5. (Still) never trust a politician? Politicians were among the worst performers on every measure, though expectations of their leadership are unmatched.
  6. Knowledge is power: Knowledge-led industries, including technology and telecommunications, topped the leadership table sector-wise, with consumer goods bringing up the rear.
  7. A disillusioned West: Europeans and Americans more unhappy with their leaders than the ‘emerging markets’.

A Blueprint for Success…

  1. Close the say-do gap: People want calm, decisive action from their leaders, not just a compelling story.
  2. Strong, silent types need not apply: Clear, transparent communiction is imperative to leadership.
  3. Don’t sugar-coat it: People seek leaders willing to be honest about the challenges ahead, rather than holding back to avoid sparking fear.
  4. Listen, analyze and adjust: Adaptability and flexibility of both leadership and communication style are critical to true leadership.
  5. The way to be seen as trustworthy is to be trustworthy: For companies, trustworthiness trumps even quality of management, financial strength and innovation in term of attributes enabling corporations to establish credible leadership.
  6. Let them look you in the eyes: Personal presence and direct involvement in the act of communication are key sources of leadership credibility.
  7. Traditional is traditional for a reason: Speech-making and ‘traditional’ print and broadcast media leave advertising and social media trailing as sources of leadership credibility – but for a good reason.

If instinct told us that troubled times meant both opportunity and responsibility for our industry, we now have the evidence to provide it. Have a look and let us know what you think …