The Public Wants More Ambitious Leaders

According to a new study, public confidence in the corporate sector is down, and what people really want to see are bolder, more ambitious leaders. How can associations help instill that can-do mindset in member companies?

Where’s the innovation up the corporate ladder? To hear a new study tell it, the public is wondering the same thing.

The Global Street Fight Study 2013 from Gibbs & Soell and Harris Interactive shows that people largely think less of leadership at public companies than in 2008, and the leadership they do value involves higher levels of innovation and strategic thinking.

More details below:

Highlights from the study: According to the study of 2,068 adults in the United States, 30 percent of respondents say leadership at large companies is weaker than it was five years ago, compared to just 10 percent who say it was stronger. On top of this, 44 percent of people have a low opinion of corporations, while just 28 percent have a positive opinion. So how can a leader do better? Respondents were of two minds on the question, with half suggesting a bold and innovative approach as being more important, and half saying leaders should be better risk managers. (Younger respondents tended to want to see bold decision-making.)

Shifting signs of quality: What makes a “good company,” in the eyes of the public? While some basics stayed the same—people gravitated toward companies they admire, trust, and see as outperforming the competition—in recent years other factors have affected the equation. In 2011, high ethical standards and high value were key. But in 2013, respondents said they most admired companies that played a valuable social role, were good to work for, and gave people a good feeling. So who does it right? According to the study, the companies with the highest reputational quotient included Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Coca-Cola.

So what can leaders do? According to Gibbs & Soell’s Steve Halsey, all is not lost for leaders trying to improve their standing with the public. “There is a glimmer of hope for CEOs as the news is not all bad,” he said in a statement. “Rather than waiting for the perfect circumstances to drive their business forward, the public expects leaders to know when it is time to be bold and gives them permission to do so. Those CEOs who can be bold and innovate in a way that still ensures solid business performance, and can effectively communicate this ‘trifecta’ to the general public, will reap tremendous rewards.”

Your association may represent many leaders in the corporate sector, but sometimes their leadership may not look so bold. How can you help your industry build more ambitious leaders? Let us know your take in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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