Effective communication is extremely important for strong leadership, according to 85 percent of 3,759 respondents in 12 countries.
That’s according to a global study by Ketchum, not surprisingly a global communications firm. But even with the organization’s undoubted self-interest in such a finding, the survey found that nearly half (48 percent) of the respondents called clear, transparent communication was the No. 1 key to effective leadership.
As big part of that, however, is trustworthiness, which ranked higher than management and financial strength as a source of leadership credibility for corporations. “In order to win that trust, the report found that the personal ‘presence’ and involvement of a leader in communicating with vital,” according to the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor.
Face-to-face contact provided the greatest source of leadership credibility (50 percent), followed by televised speeches (43 percent), broadcast media (41 percent) and print media (38 percent). Digital platforms and social media were well off the pace, with blogs at 20 percent, Facebook at 16 percent, advertising at 13 percent and Twitter at just 8 percent.
“When it comes to digital and social media, the message is that most people don’t believe that the leader is actually involved,” says Rod Cartwright, director of Ketchum’s global corporate practice.”This doesn’t mean we should conclude that these channels are redundant as a vehicle for establishing credible leadership — quite the contrary. Rather it underlines the absolute imperative of making the ‘presence’ of the leader shine through.”
It’s probably a good idea, also, to keep in mind the limitations of the media and public pronouncements.
With all of the anti-business, Occupy Wall Street, overpaid-fat-cats rhetoric that has been floating around the last few years, the survey found that business leaders were seen as more effective during the past year than politicians, not-for-profit bosses and religious leaders.
More than one-third of the respondents said they were “more confident in business leaders than a year ago, with 36 percent viewing business as providing effective leadership … and 48 percent seeing them as effective communicators.” Twenty-five percent said the same of politicians and religious leaders.
One other note from the survey, 57 percent of the respondents preferred leaders to be “open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenge ahead.” Only 17 percent said leaders should “spare them the full picture to avoid panic.”
So you may want to consider that trust goes two ways. If you treat your employees as adults and trust them to understand the business’ objectives and strategies, they will probably reward you with their trust.