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.
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.
Join the Conversation
Failing Leadership. What Is Next?
This is great Jon. These statistics are both insightful and challenging as we try to develop young leaders in our organizations.
When it comes to leadership industry failure, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the leadership development industry itself. It seems to have exploded in the last 2 decades. As with any industry, a popular product will be diluted by those who see a profit first and not a chance to add value. Maybe the leadership industry needs more voices like your to help cut through the unhelpful noise out there
Good point, Wes. Maybe the leadership industry has become so crowded that it is now ripe for disruption. As with other industries and organizations, we need to find the time to re-center on the true purpose again. Thanks! Jon
Great article and I agree with you. Positional leadership or autocratic power is no longer what effective in sustaining an organization. Leadership is much less about wielding autocratic power. Leaders today influence others by earning relationship capital “cred”.
A Relationship Capital Leadership Mindset is about earning relationship capital through character, competence, good intent and proactivity. It’s about influencing stakeholders to garner support, achieve an action, complete a task, or fulfill a commitment in a principled way; not because the leader told them to do so but because they want to and commit it. Relationship Capital Leaders can elevate the company’s culture and performance by being an “example” and consistently communicating a shared purpose and shared guiding principles.
The research is clear. Putting people first is good for the bottom line. It is about relationship capital first and the resulting financial performance is higher in the long term.
Leaders at the roundtable must change or the leaders at the roundtable must change in our hyperconnected and increasingly transparent world.
Thank you, Rob, for adding your perspective. I like the Relationship Capital Leadership Mindset. The principles you highlighted are ones that elevate the way we lead. I see these principles take form in Conscious Capitalism and B Corps. We need to gain more momentum around these models and principles to promote a needed shift. Now the question is: How do we gain added momentum behind this mindset?
Grateful that you jumped in with your voice, this model, and your thoughts. Thank you! Jon
Fascinating data Jon!
I’m not convinced that the leadership industry has failed or that we shouldn’t be reading leadership books. (Although biographies are a great suggestion!)
I’ve worked for several organizations that invested zero dollars and zero effort in developing their leaders. People with skill for a particular job are promoted and left to figure out leadership on their own. So they model what they’ve experienced, what they are currently witnessing in leaders above them, and rarely invest in books, courses, or conversations that grow their leadership.
For those that are given leadership books or courses there is often no follow up and no accountability for applying what they’ve just read or heard. (This either requires extra training/coaching budget or a mentor that is an effective leader that will follow through.)
And oh how I can rave about the leadership books I’ve read. Not just because they have great quotes, but because they’ve changed my thinking, my behavior, and my effectiveness.
I deeply believe the state of our leadership, is a reflection of people in titled leadership positions, not the leadership industry. Development has to be a priority with time and budget and accountability. It can be life changing for the titled leader, those they lead, the customers they serve, and the organization that employs them.
You highlight and make some good points, especially on accountability during and after leadership programs. What is being done to ensure the lessons learned are changing leadership habits in a positive way? Another key point is what percent of organizations have active leadership development programs. It would be interesting to overlay programs with these stats.
Ultimately, leadership programs are about learning and then growing in positive ways. I realize there are benefits to this, and some people will dive in to improve themselves. Yet, we need to do something differently, because we are not getting the results our people, organizations, and communities deserve.
Thank you for adding your perspective and voice to this study. We need more to rise up with their thoughts and actions.
Thanks so much for digging into KLCM 2016, Jon and for sharing this great take on it.
I’ll dig into your digging in and revert with more considered thoughts!
At first glance I really rather like the mindset focus – it connects well with the ‘Head, Heart, Feet’ approach adopted by CCL and others.
And to your point on empathy, Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘David and Goliath’ has some really important comment on leadership ‘legitimacy’ related to that (some recent holiday reading :-)).
Thank you, Rod. Look forward to your adding thoughts. We need an upheaval of sorts in how we lead and how we are developing leaders. Jon
I’m with you Jon. I’m actually still experiencing shock that this election is even being allowed to take place.
I need to leave for work here shortly, yet I feel so strongly about these topics, I wanted to at least offer something. Perhaps I will have more time to add later this weekend. No guarantee though!
As is common for me, I’m once again reminded of some lines from another movie. (Isn’t our current state of the union much akin to a bad movie right now!?)
This time, it’s from an American President in a scene with Michael Douglas and Michael J. Fox. Michael Douglas plays the role of a widowed President and Michael J. Fox writes his speeches. In this particular scene Fox questions his President as not just his coworker, but reminds him that he is also his president and that it is his duty to question his leaders.
Here is the end of this scene:
Lewis Rothschild: You have a deeper love of this country than any man I’ve ever known. And I want to know what it says to you that in the past seven weeks, 59% of Americans have begun to question your patriotism.
President Andrew Shepherd: Look, if the people want to listen to-…
Lewis Rothschild: They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.
President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.
I can’t share everything that comes to mind at this moment, yet this speaks to one of the facets to the problem between ‘the people’ and leadership. At least that I have witnessed and experienced countless times throughout my life.
For whatever reason, many people are taught to believe that what is most important are labels…Democrat or Republican. It appears for many people that it doesn’t really MATTER who stands as the spokesperson for a particular side. They can have rotten character …. many people just want a Democrat or a Republican in office.
Furthermore, many people confuse rhetoric and speeches…speeches that the leaders DO NOT EVEN WRITE…to mean this is an actually TRUE representation of that persons character. It couldn’t be further from TRUTH and yet so many people are led astray because someone writes well!
There is a vast dissonance between many leaders today…between what they SAY…and how they actually ARE behind the scenes. And I don’t say this to call out ALL of our imperfections because none of us are perfect. ALL of us have failed at times. ALL of us have made mistakes. I’m really speaking to the HUGE GULF I have experienced with many so called leaders first hand, who put on a glowing SHOW of rhetoric and words yet behind the scene have demonstrated the most awful, deceitful behaviors imaginable. Yet in the public eye, they are quite popular!
Now this isn’t pointing fingers at all popular leaders I happen to relate with! Yet there’s still quite a few that have deceived many MANY people and the internet and media makes it possible to fool the masses.
And as the lines in the movie above so eloquently state….people don’t drink the sand because they are thirsty, they drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.
If we don’t know the difference between lies and truth, we’ll swallow the lies.
Touching on something you’ve shared in other posts and one in which I wholeheartedly agree. We need to look past pretty words and take a good, long, hard look at character and actions before we declare someone a leader. In ANY setting; government, work, church, etc.
I have more thoughts yet no time left! Need to head to work!
Thanks for sharing your passion on this topic and the current state of our union. I believe many of us are still trying to come to grips with all that we’ve been witnessing this past year.
It continues to require deep, heartfelt reflection….
I think I can sum it up with this: We need to be better examples. A wake-up call is needed and new actions need to be taken. Thank you, Samantha. Jon
I love the quotes you shared from the movie Samantha!
Thank you Chery!