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Polling Matters
What Americans Value in the President, Workers Value in Their CEO
Polling Matters

What Americans Value in the President, Workers Value in Their CEO

American workers appear to value the same leadership traits in their company's CEO as Americans more generally value in their president.

Being inspiring, caring and visionary are the most important factors relating to workers' overall evaluation of the performance of their company's president, leader or CEO, followed by being prepared and courageous. This is precisely the case for Americans' ratings of President Donald Trump, as we reviewed in a previous report on our research.

And, being enthusiastic, competitive and intense are the least related to the overall rating of CEOs by workers, and the least related to the overall rating of Trump among Americans more generally. Emphasizing success and being analytical are also only marginally related to how the performance of CEOs and Trump are rated.

But, despite the remarkable similarity in the statistical relationship between the leadership dimensions and overall rating of CEOs and Trump, the two types of leaders have different strengths and weaknesses across the dimensions when rated by workers (in the case of CEOs) and Americans (in the case of Trump).

The nation's CEOs tend to get significantly higher ratings than Trump on the three dimensions most related to overall performance evaluations: inspiring, caring and visionary. And Trump's relative strength as intense and competitive (compared with the nation's CEOs) has only a weak relationship to his overall standing in the eyes of the public.

In short, leaders of the nation's companies, as perceived by those who work for them, do fairly well on the leadership traits that matter. The nation's overall CEO, Trump, does significantly less well on the leadership traits that matter to those he is leading.

Leadership Dimensions: Workers Rating Their CEO and Americans Rating Trump
% Rating "4" or "5" on 1 to 5 scale
  CEO: rated by workers Trump: rated by Americans Difference: CEO minus Trump
  % % pct. pts.
Prepared 58 22 +36
Consistent 56 25 +31
Focused 59 30 +29
Analytical 52 25 +27
Cares about individuals 56 31 +25
Inspiring 46 28 +18
Visionary 48 33 +15
Courageous 39 32 +7
Enthusiastic 59 53 +6
Emphasizes success 64 65 -1
Competitive 50 84 -34
Intense 37 73 -36
Gallup Panel, July 27-Aug. 10, 2017

The average "above average" ("4" on a 1 to 5 scale) or "outstanding" ("5" on a 1 to 5 scale) rating of CEOs by their workers across the 12 dimensions is 52%, compared with 42% among all survey participants across the 12 dimensions for Trump.

The higher ratings that workers give CEOs on average compared with Americans' ratings of Trump are not totally unexpected. Much research shows that individuals are generally more positive about aspects of their local situation than they are when asked about national situations, including, in particular, evaluations of their members of Congress versus members of Congress in general. So, workers might be expected to rate their CEO better than they would rate the CEO of the country (Trump).

Additionally, many workers, particularly in small companies, may know their leader or CEO personally, and workers may initially choose to work for a company in part based on their positive views of its leadership. And, the job of being president of the United States is inherently political, with all the negative partisan crosscurrents that implies, while company management is not.

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Still, the comparison of research on the perceived leadership of CEOs and of Trump underscores Trump's relative leadership deficits. He gets more credit than the average CEO for being intense and competitive, but these are not highly related to his overall job performance rating. And he does less well than the nation's CEOs on several of the traits that do matter.

It's important that we not let CEOs off the hook. On an absolute basis, there is room for improvement. Less than half of workers rate their CEO as above average or better on two (inspiring and visionary) of the top three performance dimensions.

Implications for the Nation's CEOs

In many ways, these findings have broader implications on the state of leadership, in general. In other research based on Gallup's ongoing tracking of workplaces, only one in three employees in the U.S. are engaged, or feel involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. Thus, these insights on workers' scoring of their CEO across leadership dimensions can provide valuable blueprints for leadership improvement.

The top three indicators of perceived leadership performance are inspiring, cares about people and visionary. More than a majority of workers say their CEO cares about people, but less than a majority indicate their CEO is inspiring or visionary, consistent with Gallup's broader workplace research, some of which is reported in the 2017 State of the American Workplace report. The research indicates that only four in 10 employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important. Business units where employees double this rate to eight in 10 could realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 33% improvement in quality of work.

Other Gallup research shows that approximately one in four employees strongly agree that they believe in their organization's values, and less than one in five strongly agree that the leadership of their company makes them enthusiastic about the future. This underscores an unfortunate distance between what employees want in their leaders and what the leaders provide for their workforce in vision and inspiration. This finding also speaks to an opportunity for leaders to differentiate themselves from leaders of other organizations.

The most effective leaders bring the big-picture purpose of the organization to life for employees by cultivating a feeling of purpose. They clarify and promote the organization's mission to team members. They create a culture by helping their employees discover how their roles and daily activities contribute to the realization of the organization's mission. The mission or purpose of the organization is not just represented in what is said or written on a wall, but it is an expected part of everyday behavior.

Our results suggest that for both CEOs and the president, an emphasis on being inspiring, caring and visionary, along with being prepared and courageous, would appear to have the biggest payoff for generating higher performance evaluations among the people they lead. And, while Trump certainly does less well than CEOs on a number of the important dimensions, both types of leaders have significant room for improvement.

How This Research Was Conducted

Analyses of what Americans value in the president of the United States and what employees value in their company's president, leader or CEO are based on questions asking Gallup Panel participants to indicate how well each of the leadership dimensions fit their CEO (if employed) and Trump (all survey respondents), using a 1 to 5 scale, where "1" means the dimension does not describe their CEO or Trump at all and "5" means it describes their CEO or Trump perfectly. Respondents also rated their CEO or Trump on an overall job performance scale.

The research was conducted by web, using our nationally representative Gallup Panel, based on individuals from Gallup's ongoing Daily tracking research who agree to be panel participants and who agree to respond to surveys using the internet. The research, in the field from July 27-Aug. 10, includes responses from over 30,000 panel participants, including over 19,000 workers.

The research grows out of Gallup's executive leadership research program, which has studied thousands of leaders and senior executives in hundreds of companies.

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