Leadership research points to the importance of the human touch

Leadership. In an era of fake news and broken trust, consumers are calling for brands to show leadership, to lead and to inspire. It matters.
February 24, 2023

With brands today hav­ing so many routes to mar­ket and so many media chan­nels to con­sid­er, the art of good com­mu­ni­ca­tions is not about the matrix of com­plex­i­ty but the suc­cinct­ness of simplicity.

We recent­ly com­mis­sioned mar­ket research look­ing at brand lead­er­ship – and specif­i­cal­ly at the qual­i­ties that con­sumers look for in brands. We focused the con­text on how organ­i­sa­tions present them­selves in news and the media, because that’s our area of interest.

What emerged from the data is con­sumers know what good looks like and they have a clear idea in their mind what the attrib­ut­es of brand lead­ers are. It’s not some­thing that’s real­ly defined by the brand agency or the com­pa­ny itself. Most con­sumers know them­selves that qual­i­ties they look for in leader brands and the attrib­ut­es that impress. And these qual­i­ties work across dif­fer­ent sec­tors. As always, the last word is usu­al­ly with the con­sumer and cer­tain­ly, from our research, the view­point was clear.

From the new data, the attrib­ut­es that real­ly mat­ter are the human ones. Some­times com­pa­nies think that scale and weight mat­ter. Even with thought lead­er­ship, there’s often an implic­it assump­tion that a weight­i­ness to the intel­lect is what mat­ters. Our research sug­gests oth­er­wise: big brands that can show more engag­ing, human char­ac­ter­is­tics — and con­vey gen­uine per­son­al­i­ty — often are more like­ly to be viewed as lead­ers in their sec­tor or category.

Our new research was a re-run of an orig­i­nal study on lead­er­ship which we worked on back in 2014. Almost a decade lat­er – and after a pan­dem­ic and a cost-of-liv­ing cri­sis – we thought it would be inter­est­ing to explore whether con­sumer views on brand lead­er­ship had changed much. There was evi­dence of some pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant change in the new data. In terms of the style of com­mu­ni­ca­tion there seemed to be a heav­ier focus on authen­tic­i­ty and trust. Trust cer­tain­ly fea­tured more than it did back in 2014.

Ele­phant will be run­ning some Zoom ses­sions and dis­cus­sions on the new insight report in March. To book in to join a ses­sion, do drop us a line.