Media release
October 17, 2019

Isentia’s Latest Leadership Index Reveals The Need For CEOs To Show Up Emotionally and Physically In Times Of Crisis

SYDNEY – October 17

Isentia (ASX:ISD) has launched the hotly anticipated third edition of its Leadership Index entitled Leading Through Crisis following a series of events across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. The report delves into four of the biggest crises of 2019 revealing the strengths and weaknesses of some of the world’s high profile leaders, and what business leaders can learn from them.

Developed by Isentia’s globally-recognised Insights team, the Index lined up local leaders including Rugby Australia’s Raelene Castle and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern next to the global headlines that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg faced and how they responded to exceptional circumstances. Revealing across all cases analysed the clear expectation that during a crisis, leaders show up both physically and emotionally.

Khali Sakkas, Chief Insights Officer at Isentia said: “Getting leadership right during crises is crucial as it can heavily impact the leaders’, as well as the organisations’ reputations. Soft skills such as empathy, building a connection with the public, authenticity and being physically and emotionally present are often overlooked and undermined.

The analysis found Zuckerberg and Muilenburg got it wrong and could learn from the words and actions of Castle and Ardern.

Khali said “Leadership is never more tested than when it is under stress. It can reveal a lot about a character and while organisations tend to avoid a crisis, being ready to face one can also be an opportunity to improve public trust for a leader, if managed well.”

“From our analysis, it became very clear that leaders who fall short of the necessary soft skills such as authenticity and empathy in order to build a connection with their audiences and build trust, are the ones who fail to keep their head above water when faced with crisis.

On the other hand, leaders who are compassionate and authentic and those who show up when the going gets tough, are the ones who are able to turn things around from a public perception point of view. And this doesn’t only impact their reputation as leaders but it also reflects on the organisation they represented,” added Sakkas.

While CEOs may not always be the most trusted voices in an organisation, the analysis points to the cruciality of their presence and authenticity in influencing the outcome and these traits need to be nurtured outside of a crisis to ensure their actions and motivations are authentic and believable when they are faced with one.

The third Index came in response to the high level of public interest in the desire to be safe: safe while flying, safe while online, and safe from persecution in digital and public spaces.

Some of the most revealing findings from the report include:

  • Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenburg was known for his industry and company knowledge (he had famously worked his way up from intern to CEO). However, following the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes killing a total of 346 people, a searing criticism of the Boeing response has been the absence of the Chairman and CEO. Media framed his statements as “too little too late” with the majority of coverage positing Muilenburg as ‘defensive” and dishonest”, directly criticizing him in 44 percent of coverage analysed. His lack of communication and contribution severely impacted Boeing’s reputation and continues to shape the narrative with an estimated global impact to airline industry is calculated at $4.1 billion in lost revenue so far.
  • Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was seen to be ineffective and dishonest in over 35 percent of coverage analysed since the series of data breaches, transparency concerns and legal proceedings against Facebook that have been seen all over the world. Compared to the “visionary” label that was found to be used so liberally for his profile as a disruption in Edition 2 of the Index series, Zuckerberg represents what happens when the snappy tech disrupter becomes the large multi-national corporate. The expectations on leaders change. While Zuckerberg was always on-message about privacy and how Facebook intends to build a safer platform, he lacks believability. More than 35 percent of coverage categorised Zuckerberg as ineffective and dishonest.
  • Rugby Australia’s CEO Raelene Castle faced a very public employee conduct dispute over continued comments made by professional rugby player Israel Folau on social media. After taking swift and decisive actions to both dismiss Folau and take a clear stance against homophobia, representing Rugby Australia say Castle positively portrayed in nearly 40 percent of coverage. In an environment where sports codes can be slow to move on player conduct (the NRL and AFL for example), acting swiftly was important for taking control of a potentially complex debate saw Castle step in to manage the organisation’s reputation from the very beginning. Described by the media as calm, clear and consistent, Castle’s leadership was praised as being inclusive, decisive and strategic.
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gained global recognition in multiple news outlets across the world in the wake of Christchurch terrorists attacks. From wearing the hijab as a sign of respect, to declaring a national day of mourning and making swift and radical changes to gun laws in New Zealand resulted in news coverage focusing on her actions describing Ardern as authentic and empathetic. Close to 50 percent of analysed coverage overtly praised her leadership and she was described as authentic and believable, empathetic and being physically and emotionally present.

To learn more and download a copy of The Leadership Index, Leading Through Crisis visit: https://www.isentia.com/leadership-index-ed3-leading-through-crisis/


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