Credits (visual): Unsplash
In 2005, David Rooke and William Torbert published a trailblazing article called “The Seven Transformations of Leadership” in the Harvard Business Review, summarising 25 years of empirical research on leaders across the corporate world and NGOs. They concluded that leaders can be divided into seven different action-based categories. Only three categories “showed the consistent capacity to innovate and successfully transform their organizations” and only 15% of all managers qualified into these three categories.
16 years down the road, it’s evident that corporate leadership has taken on a defining role in shaping our present day and future. Davos 2020 cemented the term ‘stakeholder capitalism’ in the lingua franca which commits leaders to a new form of governance – beyond mere profit. As we navigate through the pandemic and feel its strain on the economy, democracy, the community and the individual, we expect more from corporate leaders. Today, leaders are expected to earn our trust, whilst simultaneously transforming their organizations to meet the increasingly complex needs of innovation, diversity and inclusion and sustainability.
C-Suite communication has been a cornerstone of JIN’s work in digital influence. We have advocated the use of digital platforms to amplify thought leadership, engage with communities and increase transparency to build trusted relationships that will empower leaders to transform their organizations. We believe it’s time to investigate this notable acceleration of public C-level accountability with an index that measures quantitative performance of C-level communication and deciphers the digital editorial narrative to contrast it with real life indicators across three comparable European economies —France, UK, Germany. The results, while imperfect, shed some light on leaders in key industries that we depend on to innovate and successfully transform their organizations.
Some of the findings of our index were expected – i.e. there is such a thing as critical mass (1). Our research found that natively green companies, despite a natural disposition to score highly on the positive influence score, lacked the visibility and engagement through their C-Level profiles to make a mark in the digital sphere. Despite reaching both a higher total score average and positive influence score average, only five natively green companies are represented in the top 20 of the Index. Overall, they have not developed relevant reach for their online platforms, preventing them from truly influencing debates. Considering that « Positive Influence » topics are generating growing interest in the public, natively green companies should increase efforts to garner broad support for their mission. As an immediate win, content partnerships between companies undergoing transformation and natively green companies could drive growth in both community size and engagement for both parties.
Certain elements of our findings were surprising: i.e. compared to France and Germany, the UK C-level leaders are lagging behind across the board. The markets show significant differences in average index scores: France leads the way overall with an average total score of 48.4 out of 200, Germany comes in second with 42.2 and the UK comes last with 37. However, the picture somewhat changes when we focus on the rankings solely based on the positive influence score, in which Germany closes the gap to France with a score of 34.1 and 34.8 respectively, whilst the UK remains in last place with 30.3. Given the UK’s proximity to the US market and its agility in adapting to communication trends, this result seems rather counter-intuitive — especially considering that only LinkedIn profiles were reviewed. With Germany also having the powerful XING network, a professional social network equivalent to LinkedIn, one might assume that that may dilute outcomes. Our findings could potentially suggest that German and British companies are simply under-communicating their achievements and underinvesting in their leaders’ Linkedin accounts whilst French C-level are dominating in these aspects.
Some findings needed to be further analysed in order to identify nuances: i.e. while men dominate, women triumph. It is unsurprising that women were woefully underrepresented in the digital C-Level sphere – there were only 29 women in the index out of 174 C-Level profiles reviewed. Given that only 17% of senior management are women in Europe, it’s safe to assume male voices crowd out the female ones. However, if we take a step back and review the women’s profile scores, we can see that they score higher on average (44.1) than their male counterparts (42.3). This is driven mainly by higher rankings on the positive influence score, which measures factors such as D&I or sustainability in their editorial line as well as the figures in their annual reports. While this initial C-Level index can only be a baseline to this finding, it’s an encouraging sign as it suggests that female leaders are at greater ease with the type of transformative leadership that incorporates minority needs, sustainability and authenticity and true commitment to a greener economy – indicators of positive influence and impact. Judging by the expectations of the politically progressive and digitally native, generation Z coming of age, we can expect to see these factors play an increasing role in legitimising corporate leadership in the public sphere.
“Leaders are made, not born, and how they develop is critical for organizational change.”
Rooke and Tolbert, Havard Business Review, 2005
More than ever, organizational change will be a driving force for positive environmental , societal and economic improvement. This index aims to give us indicators and an overview of the virtual and physical real life positive impact of C-level communication. We encourage all corporate leaders to acknowledge and model good leadership to all their stakeholders in real life: in the policies they make, the tone they set, in the rules they break, in the progress for people and planet they initiate and drive. And then ensure that they use powerful tools like LinkedIn to amplify their leadership and lead with positive influence.
Edouard Fillias, JIN CEO, and Merve Liebelt, General Manager Europe & VP International