Global Ketchum survey shows Chinese most confident in their leaders


The Chinese view their leaders with much more optimism than any other markets in the world and are more confident in their leaders’ ability to lead over the next 12 months, according to the third annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (KLCM).

The global study, which polled 6,509 people in 13 countries across five continents, including China, provides insight into consumer views on effective leadership, effective communications and the link between the two.

This year’s study reveals that a global leadership “crisis” stubbornly persists as people continue to be disillusioned with their leaders.

Looking at leaders in business, government, community service, trade/labour unions and the not-for-profit sector, only 22 per cent of those surveyed believe leaders are demonstrating effective leadership, down from 25 per cent last year,  with just 13 percent scoring leaders strongly on accountability when things go wrong.

Additionally, less than a third (30 per cent) believe that leadership is based on clear values and just 17 per cent are optimistic about seeing any improvement in leadership over the coming year.

In comparison with other respondents around the world, the Chinese are much more likely than the rest of the world to consider that their business leaders are effective (50 per cent vs 29 per cent globally).

By contrast, Spain (14 per cent) and France (14 per cent) are the most pessimistic about business leaders.

In China, the confidence in leaders’ ability to lead over the coming year is much higher than other markets (31 per cent vs 17 per cent globally). In some European markets, confidence is as low as 8 per cent (UK, Spain).

Sean Fitzgerald, partner, executive vice president Ketchum Greater China, said: “The survey results clearly demonstrate that despite the ongoing leadership crisis worldwide, business leaders in China are positively perceived as leading the way on effective leadership.  While leaders in specific sectors may face challenges in China, overall we continue to see that good leadership behavior has proven to influence not only perceptions, but also impact Chinese consumption of products and services. Examples include Jack Ma of Alibaba, Yang Yuanqing of Lenovo, Pony Ma of Tencent and Robin Li of Baidu.”

As with previous years, the research finds that open, transparent communication is the top ranking attribute for effective leadership. 79 per cent of Chinese view it very important to great leadership, slightly higher than global findings of 74 per cent.

But at the same time, only 44 percent of Chinese believe leaders communicate effectively, with a 35-point gap between expectation and delivery.

This gap has enormous commercial implications. A clear majority of respondents, both within China (59 per cent) and globally (61 per cent), boycotted or bought less from a company during the past 12 months due to poor leadership. Far fewer started buying or purchased more as a result of positive leadership perceptions.

Fitzgerald added,“The Leadership eVangelists are a vocal but highly influential minority. They are hidden in plain sight, open-minded, but have strong power in driving the demand we are seeing for a fundamental shift in leadership. This group of people tends to perceive companies and leaders far more positively when they believe that they have been genuinely engaged and heard. But at the same time, they can penalize those commercially if they are not heard. Purchasing habits still have a close linkage with leadership perceptions and communication,  the better a leader communicates and is perceived, the better the corporate performance and sales will be, and vice versa.”

This year marks the launch of two new global indices based on KLCM’s findings and these benchmarks examine how “disillusioned” consumers are with their leaders on a country-by-country level, as well as which industries are the most respected.

The KLCM Global Disillusionment Index pooled all of the global data collected across leadership, communication, confidence in leaders, accountability, meeting expectations and values on a country-by-country basis.

Asian countries faired the best topping the list. China has the most confidence in their leaders (181), followed by India (167) and Singapore (112).The Spanish (55) were most disillusioned with their leaders – with European countries taking five of the bottom six slots.

Looking at leadership from an industry perspective and combining data on leadership, communication, accountability and meeting expectations, the KLCM Global Industry Leadership Index shows that the technology industry (153) ranked top on every measure, with banking (36) rounding out the bottom of the list.

Separately, the Chinese view leaders in the technology sector are setting a good examples in effective leadership (56 percent vs 52 per cent globally), with trustworthiness, innovation, and quality of management being the key attributes that keep them on top of the list.

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