Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor 2015: The Rise of the Title-less Leader

Out With Command and Control, In With Collaboration and Communication, Says 12-country Study

Jul 01, 2015, 09:01 ET from Ketchum

NEW YORK, July 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- A new Ketchum leadership study of more than 6,000 respondents in 12 countries reveals people are looking more to employees at all levels for leadership instead of just those at the top of the org chart. According to the fourth-annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (KLCM), 41 percent of respondents believe leadership should come mainly from the organization and all its employees, compared with 25 percent that believe leadership should come only from the CEO.

This aligns with three years of KLCM data pointing to the demise of the CEO-as-celebrity leadership style and highlights a greater-than-ever opportunity for "leadership by all" – a collaborative and communicative culture that empowers employees at every level.

While the CEO, board and senior management still play an important role, the study suggests that employees throughout an organization can and should provide leadership. The survey identified the top five traits of an effective leader: leading by example (63 percent), communicating in an open and transparent way (61 percent), admitting mistakes (59 percent), bringing out the best in others (58 percent), and handling controversial issues or crises calmly and confidently (58 percent). These are traits that every CEO should possess, and also ones that every good employee would have.

The Rise of the Title-less Leader
"Title-less Leader" articulates the rising support for the concept of shared leadership and underscores Ketchum's findings that leaders no longer reside only at the top of an org chart, nor do they necessarily possess traditional leadership titles. This finding is also reflected in another part of the study, which looks at perceptions of how leaders performed during major global crises of the past year.

This emerging preference for leadership by many, as well as confidence in leadership from unexpected sources comes at a time when leaders are under scrutiny. Disillusionment is high; only one in four (24 percent) people believe leaders are effective. Global crises, economic uncertainty and changes in business and technology continue at a relentless pace. Against this backdrop, leaders are being judged quickly and at times mercilessly.

"Social media has turned us all into journalists – and today we evaluate and react to every brand and company interaction in a whole different way. That means employees and a highly agile culture are as important – and potentially even more important – than the CEO in building brand reputation," said Tyler Durham, partner, and president of Ketchum Change. "People expect organizations and leaders to lead at the speed of now. If we continue to view leadership as the responsibility of only a few people in the organization, companies will never be fit for the future."

Consumers Vote with their Wallets
Underscoring their opinions of corporate leadership, people are making purchasing decisions that punish bad leadership even more than they reward good. Half of global citizens (51 percent) have purchased less or stopped purchasing products altogether because of negative behavior by a company's leaders, compared with 46 percent who purchased more or for the first time because of positive leadership behaviors. Interestingly, food and beverage, supermarket/general retailing and banking are the industries most likely to feel the effects of positive and negative leadership behavior on product sales.

Business leaders rate seven points higher on effectiveness than the global average for all types of leaders asked about, with high-growth economies – India (54 percent), China (43 percent) and Brazil (43 percent) – demonstrating the greatest belief in business leaders. Respondents in struggling European economies, however, 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.

Open and Transparent Communications Continue to Rule
As with all previous years of KLCM, the research finds open and transparent communication to be absolutely critical to effective leadership. For the fourth year in a row, open and transparent communication is a top-ranking attribute. Yet only 24 percent feel leaders communicate effectively (an all-time low), with a 44-point gap between expectation and delivery.

"In this era of cynicism and scrutiny, the world is looking to businesses and business leaders to set the example for great leadership and to help us advance against some of the world's most intractable problems," said Rob Flaherty, senior partner, CEO and president of Ketchum. "This should serve as a tremendous catalyst for communicators to push our leaders to not just communicate but also to help change the way companies operate and to demonstrate a consistency of words and actions."

He Leads, She Leads
As women are encouraged increasingly to "lean in" to positions of leadership in the workplace, the worldwide dialogue on important issues around gender gaps and diversity continues. This year's study sees a stronger swing of the pendulum toward male leaders compared to 2014, when 54 percent of global consumers saw male leaders as most likely to navigate the world through challenging and rapidly changing times over the next five years. This year, 61 percent see male leaders as more likely than female leaders to do this, a seven-point increase in one year. While this trend is shared across markets surveyed, China and Singapore (both 75 percent) and United Arab Emirates (71 percent) are above the global average. Voting along gender lines also tilts toward men: the percentage of males who voted for male leaders is up nine points from last year, while the percentage of females expressing confidence in female leaders is down five points.

On the other hand, female leaders are judged to best demonstrate three of the top five traits of an effective leader: communicating openly and transparently, admitting mistakes, and bringing out the best in others. These seemingly contradictory beliefs – that women exhibit more of the top traits yet men are more likely to lead us through challenges in the coming years – mirror the ongoing debate about male vs. female leaders and their leadership and communication styles. It is a complex issue and one prone to stereotypes.

Five Questions for Leading Successfully at the Speed of Now
Organizations are encouraged to consider these five questions as they evaluate their leadership and communication strategies in the context of today's fast-changing environment:

  1. Are you focusing the majority of your communication resources across all levels of your organization, as opposed to the few at the top?
  2. Are you leveraging the enormous power of your employees and earned media to authentically show who you are and what you believe in?
  3. Do you have a communications operating system and listening mechanism in place to enable rapid decision-making and responses?
  4. Has your organization established the goodwill needed for your leadership, organization and brand to be well-received in times of crisis?
  5. Is your company leveraging the traits of those leaders seen as best demonstrating these characteristics in order to grow your entire leadership base?

For additional survey information and materials, visit http://www.ketchum.com/leadership-communication-monitor-2015.

About KLCM 
Ketchum Global Research & Analytics conducted an online survey of 6,029 respondents from Feb. 13 to March 10, 2015 in 12 markets: the U.S., U.K., Canada, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, China, Singapore and India. The global margin of error is +/-1.3 percent. The research explored respondents' views of both different categories of leader (business, political, community, non-profit and union/labor organization) and of 22 vertical industries. All data collection was handled by Ipsos Observer.

About Ketchum 
Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. The winner of 14 Cannes Lions and an unprecedented four PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards, Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a part of the DAS Group of Companies, visit www.ketchum.com.

About the DAS Group of Companies
The DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (www.omnicomgroup.com), is a global group of marketing services companies. DAS includes over 200 companies in the following marketing disciplines: specialty, PR, healthcare, CRM, events, promotional marketing, branding and research. Operating through a combination of networks and regional organizations, DAS serves international, regional, national and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.

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