In a decidedly unique and challenging year, it may not be a surprise to see that overall global confidence in the C-suite declined by eight percent from 2019, but the latest Confidence Index (WCI) from The Worldcom Public Relations Group reveals interesting shifts in CEO/CMO confidence over the last year. In fact, a stand-out change since last year was the rise in confidence of female leaders by seven percent, and the decline in confidence of male leaders by the same figure.
The changes to business operations caused by the pandemic seem to have triggered two significant changes in confidence. Confidence in the ability to upskill and reskill rose 15 places to #1 on the WCI. And, not surprising given the forced shift due to COVID-19, confidence in using technology to collaborate and innovate moved up 16 places to #2 on the WCI. Both these areas will remain central to success in 2021.
The most significant increases in leaders’ engagement with topics did not translate into increased confidence. As might have been expected, engagement with government and legislative change increased 79 percent from the 2019 level, and engagement with crisis management rose by 40 percent. However, both topics remained in the top five topics of concern (lowest confidence) along with global trade agreements and tariffs, the impact on business of the way political leaders communicate on social media, and sexual harassment and other bad behavior.
“Worldcom believes people take action when they feel confident that it will deliver the outcomes they want,” said Roger Hurni, chair of the Worldcom Public Relations Group, in a news release. “The confidence inspired by female leaders like Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel, and now Kamala Harris, has certainly helped them achieve key goals. Therefore, we hope our report will help crystallize where leaders will want to place more focus in 2021 so that they inspire confidence in all their stakeholders.”
U.S. leaders rank most confident
The confidence of leaders in the U.S. rose 26 percent from 2019, making them the most confident globally. However, this increased confidence was not experienced across all the business topics in the WCI. For example, U.S. leaders’ confidence in data privacy and protection fell by 23 percent since 2019.
“Despite the pandemic, 2020 has seen a big focus on the need for diversity in every business,” Hurni continued. “The changes in confidence by gender since 2019 show why diversity aids business performance. Companies who have taken steps to strengthen their leadership team in this way should perform strongly in 2021.”
Confidence in handling the media increases
Confidence in the impact and role of the media has increased since 2019. This topic moved from last place in 2019 to #10 on the WCI in 2020. Leaders in France are the most confident, while leaders in Brazil are the most concerned about this topic.
“Our decision to augment our research using artificial intelligence has paid dividends in the increased breadth and depth of the insight we can provide,” said Todd Lynch, managing director of The Worldcom Public Relations, in the release. “In the 2020 report, we provided results for 36 countries compared to 15 in 2019. We expect this to grow to 46 countries by the end of 2020. We are confident that the insight delivered by the WCI will enable organizations to develop key strategic campaigns that create a meaningful impact in 2021.”
The Worldcom Confidence Index 12
The Worldcom Confidence Index highlights concerns/confidence of over 54,000 CEOs and CMOs globally, across 23 topics and six audiences. The top 12 findings for the year to September 2020 are as follows:
- #1 The pandemic drives leaders’ confidence down. Only four topics increased in confidence globally
- #2 Are female leaders better at handling crises? Female leaders’ confidence increased by 7% while male leaders’ confidence decreased by 7 percent
- #3 Confidence in the impact and role of the media increased since 2019. This topic moved from last place in 2019 to #10 on the WCI in 2020
- #4 Confidence in employee issues falls, with four dropping out of the top six on the WCI since 2019
- #5 Upskilling and reskilling is the #1 topic for leader attention and confidence
- #6 Confidence in the use of technology to collaborate and innovate moves up 16 places to #2 on the WCI
- #7 The pandemic drives the most significant increases in leaders’ engagement. Government, and legislative change increased 79 percent from the 2019 level and crisis management rose by 40 percent
- #8 Leaders continue to focus on long term challenges. Plastics and other sustainability topics have the fourth-highest level of engagement globally
- #9 The rise of new influencers keeps influencers #1 audience for leaders
- #10 North America becomes the most confident region, up from #5 in 2019. Latin America remains the least confident region
- #11 Industry sector confidence table points to the winners and losers of the pandemic. Utilities are the most confident sector of 11 in the WCI
- #12 It pays to have a local view on leadership confidence. The WCI uncovers some marked differences in confidence, and changes in confidence, between the 36 countries. For example, the confidence of Russian leaders in government and legislative change fell by 21 percent since 2019, but French leaders’ confidence in the same topic increased by 22 percent.
The Worldcom Confidence Index 12 can be seen in more detail here.