Short-termist Politicians Can Learn From Forward-thinking Business Leaders

But When Business Leaders Fall Short, Sales Impact is Significant and Direct, Finds Global Study

Mar 21, 2013, 03:00 ET from Ketchum

NEW YORK, March 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Business leaders come out on top for accountability and long-term thinking – politicians rank at the bottom on both
  • Poor leadership directly impacts sales – in 2012, 60 percent of consumers boycotted, or bought less from, a company due to negative leadership perceptions
  • Employees outrank the CEO as credible corporate ambassadors
  • Technology industry is the role model of corporate behavior on every measure
  • Europe is the most disillusioned with its leaders – just 15 percent credit them with effective leadership, 14 percent for taking responsibility for when they fall short
  • 62 percent are looking beyond the Baby Boomers and others to Gen-X leaders to take over and define the future
  • Open communication tops the list of leadership attributes for the second year running – but leaders' communications effectiveness drops 24 percent year-on-year globally

Politicians who fail to act with long-term interests in mind can learn from forward-thinking business leaders, according to a new global survey. Sixty-one percent of people around the world see business leaders as focused mainly on the long-term, countering stereotypes that corporations are obsessed with the next quarter's profits. Business chiefs also come out on top for taking responsibility when things go wrong. Politicians, by contrast, trail behind all other leadership categories on both measures – 60 percent of those surveyed view them as short-term focused – suggesting the world of politics has much to learn from the business community.

This is a key finding of the second annual Ketchum Leadership Communications Monitor, a global study which polled 6,000 people in 12 countries on leadership, communication and the link between them.

Business leaders still have ample room for improvement despite attaining the highest scores in almost every area. Of those polled, only 34 percent view business chiefs as effective leaders and just 35 percent believe they are effective communicators. Business leaders experienced the largest drop (13 points) on open, transparent communication –  the No. 1 leadership attribute for the second year running – with leaders overall seeing a 24 percent drop in their communication score.

Poor leadership communication is directly affecting corporate performance and sales. In the past year, 60 percent of people stopped buying, or bought less, from a company due to poor perceptions of the behavior of those in charge. Leadership failure also hits the bottom line far harder than good leadership enhances it.

Poor leadership perceptions led 51 percent of respondents to buy less of a firm's products and services, and 44 percent to boycott it – while positive leadership perceptions prompted only 36 percent of respondents to buy more and 42 percent to start buying. People also view employees and third-party analysts as the most credible representatives of an organization, ahead of senior leaders, with the CEO and other senior management coming in a lowly sixth and joint seventh place from among 12 sources of trustworthy information.

Overall, one in four said leaders in general were demonstrating effective leadership, and there is a 21-point gap between expectations of leaders and their ability to meet them. 

This cynicism is strongest in Europe, where only 8 percent are more confident that leaders will be effective in 2013, just 16 percent believe leaders are effective communicators, and only 14 percent credit European leaders for taking appropriate responsibility when they fall short of expectations.

"This year's data shows a striking gap between leaders' words and deeds, as well as the impact of that gap on the company's sales and reputation," said Rob Flaherty, senior partner and CEO, Ketchum. "At the same time, the fact that employees at large currently carry far greater credibility as company ambassadors than senior management cannot be ignored."

While confidence that leadership will improve in 2013 remains fragile, the study clearly shows a desire globally for a different breed of open, collaborative, consultative leadership, which balances leading by example with the humility to admit mistakes. And "Generation-X" leaders, aged 35 to 50, are the community the world has in its sights, with 62 percent globally looking to them to shape the future.

If leaders in any industry serve as a role model, the technology sector is setting the standard, performing highest on every measure and enjoying an overwhelming 14 percentage point advantage over its nearest rivals on leadership prowess. The leaders in the technology industry also comes out on top on both communications effectiveness – 44 percent rate those in the sector as impressive communicators – and taking responsibility when their industry falls short, with 34 percent scoring them strongly. 

Rod Cartwright, partner and director of Ketchum's Global Corporate Practice, said: "In 2012, we found that leadership credibility hinged on a combination of open and transparent communication, decisive action and the personal presence of the leader. With the crisis of leadership and communication continuing to have a direct commercial impact, our 2013 study shows that this formula for establishing meaningful, authentic leadership remains as robust as ever and will only grow in importance over the coming decade."

Visit for additional survey information and materials.

About the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor
Ketchum Global Research & Analytics and Ipsos Observer, a worldwide strategic business line within Ipsos, conducted an online survey of 6,000 respondents in 12 markets from Dec. 21, 2012 to Jan. 11, 2013. These were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, China, Singapore, India, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Brazil. 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 18 vertical industries.

About Ketchum
Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. Named 2012 PR Agency of the Year (PRWeek and European Excellence Awards) and the winner of an unprecedented three consecutive 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 Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc., visit

About Diversified Agency Services
Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (, manages Omnicom's holdings in a variety of marketing communications disciplines. DAS includes over 200 companies, which operate through a combination of networks and regional organizations, serving international and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.

About Omnicom Group Inc. Omnicom Group Inc. ( is a leading global marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom's branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, digital and interactive marketing, direct and promotional marketing, public relations and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

About Ipsos Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011, Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world's third largest market research company. With offices in 84 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research and survey management.

SOURCE Ketchum