failing leadership

What is happening today? Seriously. I can’t help but shake my head and wonder why we have such a sad state of leadership today. Political leaders spend too much time being derogatory and divisive while kicking the can down the road, letting problems go unsolved. Too many business leaders put self-interest in front of the greater mission or select temporary metrics over sustainable results. How did we get to this point?

I am not a doom-and-gloom type of the person. Quite the opposite. However, we need to understand the causes and thoughts that are driving this ineffective leadership rhetoric and stalemate. For five years, Ketchum has conducted an extensive survey with the objective of answering two questions:

  • What does the world think of its leaders?
  • What can those leaders and the organizations they steer do to restore confidence?

The 2016 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor is the resulting report with the latest insights.

Failing Leadership: Insights and Needs

The 2016 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor is available for download. I selected a few highlights to gain a sense of the current indicators.

State of Leadership.

“Fewer than 1 in 4 respondents (23 percent) believe leaders are leading well and give them 8 out of 10 or higher for their performance. At no point in five years has that number risen above 25 percent.”

Leaders are not performing. Only 23 percent believe that leaders are performing at an 8 or above. Essentially, only 23 percent of our leaders are performing at a B or better, and 77 percent are performing at a C or lower.

Lower Confidence in Change.

“Five points worse than last year, pessimism trumps optimism, as 27 percent are less confident in effective leadership over the coming year….”

From the survey, people are not seeing a change in leadership behavior happening anytime soon. Discontent continues to grow. Cynicism expands. A sense of urgency needs to rise for leaders to step up in how they collaborate, solve problems, and bring people together.

Desired Leadership Attributes.

In the 2016 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, people want leaders to exhibit these key attributes:

  • 70% – Leading by example
  • 68% – Open communication
  • 66% – Admitting mistakes

The first and last one requires behavior changes in order to close the leadership gaps. Communication – personal, interpersonal, verbal, and nonverbal – is necessary to keep change moving in the right direction. Leaders are not setting a good example today, as the statistics illustrate. To change this leadership state, better examples are vital; better leaders are required.

Leadership Style Cravings.

Below are the top seven leadership styles people want.

  • 86% – Speaks in everyday language
  • 82% – Apologizes for mistakes
  • 78% – Real-world experience
  • 77% – Makes decisions based on the collective
  • 66% – Speaks his/her mind
  • 66% – Few words
  • 64% – Relate to on an intellectual level

As I read through the styles, two values come to mind: Empathy and Humility. Add in being thought-provoking and action-oriented to enliven the best in others. Confidence is also refreshed. A sense of confidence can exist with empathy and humility and, in many ways, it is necessary.

Leaders need to be confident to listen deeply to others and understand their perspectives. Leaders need to be confident in who they are so that they put others above themselves. Doing the right thing for team members, customers, partners, and other stakeholders will enhance how leaders craft strategies and set a direction.

What Should Leaders Do?

Ketchum outlines five specific steps leaders should take. You can review them in the report. They are a solid way forward.

I believe we need to be more positively radical in what we do. In an unscientific poll through my newsletter readership, people felt we need to ditch leadership and focus on mindset. I agree. A new mindset is required in order to lead in a way that closes the gaps identified.

The Ketchum study reinforces the power of example and the importance of character. Both are foundational.

Beyond this strong footing of example and character, we need a new mindset in how to tap the best talent and skills from each individual. We need a mindset of empowered problem solving while crafting a culture to focus on the issues rather than the politics. We need a mindset that stops talking about passion and creates an environment in which people can apply their passion.

Why Mindset?

Mindset is attitude. I believe it is much more. Mindset is based on a set of beliefs. Mindset is thinking, analytically and strategically. Mindset also relies on heart as a source for inspiration and aspiration.  An effective mindset is one connected to our heart and soul.

To close these gaps, we need to develop our mindset. Some actions to take:

  • Skip most, if not all, leadership books. Read more biographies. Dive into history. Understand social sciences and psychology.
  • Spend more time in nature and look for what connects nature. Within these connections, we gain and refresh our own.
  • Spend time soul searching and connecting your soul to your mind and your mind to your soul. Understand these connections and develop them. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Think big, think ahead, think purpose. Through this thinking, determine how to use profits for purpose growth. Determine how to give people space to pursue.
  • Never tolerate self-centered leaders or leaders that hold others back. Do not keep people that stunt the mindset of empowering others to grow. Ask them to leave, and find people that engage a mindset that matches the right character and example.

We know what we are doing is not working. We know the next generation of leaders show promise. We cannot wait. We need to shift to a mindset model.

I have not read Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, but the premise that the leadership industry has failed seems right. I don’t know the answers, but this is a topic I will dig into more. Mindset seems like a good starting point.

What is causing this failure of leadership? What would you include in a mindset model?

Join in and share your perspective.