Many in U.S. Don’t Believe Leaders Act in Best Interest of Employees

Fierce, Inc., a leadership development and training company, has released research results that reveal sentiments toward leaders in business and politics. Fierce conducted the nationwide survey of several hundred professionals to identify how their views on leadership compared in the business and political worlds.

“What we found is that people want the same qualities in their leaders, regardless of the context. Whether it’s heading a large corporation or the country, leaders need the same traits to be successful,” said Susan Scott, founder and CEO of Fierce.

When asked if the personal qualities of the CEO of their current employer influenced their decision to join the company, respondents were almost equally divided (53% indicated they agreed, 47% did not). However, nearly 70% of respondents revealed that the personal qualities of their organization’s CEO did influence their decision to stay with or leave a company.

“Once people have made a decision to be a part of an organization and invest their time and energy into it, the stakes are raised and the actions of that leader hold more weight,” said Scott.

Desired Qualities of a Leader

  • When presented with a variety of characteristics, 51% of respondents ranked “communicator” as the most important quality for business leaders, and 56.18% ranked it as the most important quality for politicians.
  • Along with strong communication skills, open-mindedness, respectfulness, and transparency all ranked in the top five qualities desired in a leader for both political and business positions.


“Radical transparency is a vital philosophy at Fierce and is at the very center of our increasingly hyper-connected world,” said Scott. “And transparency goes both ways. When communication is one way, from the leader to everyone else and the reverse isn’t welcomed, you don’t have communication. You have directives, often resulting in lackluster compliance. A true exchange of ideas, opinions, and perspectives throughout the decision-making process allows leaders to make better-informed decisions, creates buy-in and makes it easier for people to understand why certain conclusions are reached, even when there’s disagreement.”

Business Leaders Are Trusted Over Politicians

  • One differentiator between the two forms of leadership was trust. The majority of respondents (63.35%) consider CEOs and business leaders to be more trustworthy than politicians.
  • When Fierce asked respondents if they were confident that business leaders and CEOs would deliver on their promises, 72.52% responded favorably.


“Based on these findings, I would assume that a significant contributing factor to this disparity in trust and confidence is due to a perceived lack of consistency among many politicians and business leaders in their values, priorities, and behavior,” commented Scott. “We want leaders whose stated beliefs are aligned with their behavior. For example, if a leader says that he or she values input and doesn’t ask for it or rejects it out of hand when it’s offered, then decisions are made before the conversation has an opportunity to begin. Unfortunately, many of us have gotten so used to saying what we think others want to hear, we forget that some people actually want the truth.”

Radical transparency goes hand-in-hand with another Fierce philosophy—that trust also requires persistent identity. These concepts are rooted in Fierce’s principle: The conversation is the relationship. Given that our most valuable currency is relationship, politicians need to take greater responsibility to articulate how and why their opinions may evolve over time and invite dialogue.

“Given that we are in the middle of a contentious, unpredictable election cycle, our goal was to have a better understanding of what people are looking for in political leaders,” said Stacey Engle, executive vice president of marketing at Fierce. “Looking at the bigger picture, we also wondered if there would be any difference with desired attributes for politicians compared to leaders in the corporate world. What we found interesting is that most people do not feel like their leaders have their best interest in mind, regardless of the setting in which they are leading. Leaders across the board need to gain people’s heads and hearts. Those who clearly and effectively communicate the reasoning behind their decisions and points of view will gain the trust of their audience.”

Fierce designed and conducted the survey this spring, receiving more than 250 responses from professionals of all positions, the majority in the manager or director role (54%) and ranging in age from 45 to 64 years old (60%). The findings highlight how people feel about leaders in business and politics and what qualities they value in a leader.

For more information on this survey, visit the Fierce, Inc. website.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we present tips on how to keep executive productivity from tanking.