Research Shows Employees Around The World Are Not Confident In Their Leaders

It’s one thing to know something, it’s another thing to actually do something about it! This is something we struggle with especially in the world of leadership.

As part of my research for The Future Leader, I interviewed over 140 CEOs at some of the world’s top companies including Mastercard, Best Buy, Unilever, Verizon, Audi, and many others. I also teamed up with LinkedIn to survey nearly 14,000 employees globally.

From this research, I identified six specific trends as being crucial to the future of leadership (if you haven’t seen those trends, you can read the article here). Yet it doesn’t appear that what leaders are saying are matching their actions.

For a long time, there’s been debate about paying lip service around changing how work gets done and putting people first but it appears that’s exactly what leaders are doing.

When I was doing research for The Future Leader, my assumption was that if a CEO identified a trend as being crucial then surely that organization would be taking action to address it.

Of course, identifying trends is not the same thing as doing something about them. CEOs and leaders around the world need to step up to make sure that they and their people are aware of these trends and are actively doing something to address them. Right now it’s the words that are speaking louder than the actions but we need the actions to speak louder than words.

This is true across the organization for mid-level managers, senior executives, and CEOs, everyone in leadership positions needs to step up.

In the chart below you can see what this gap looks like.

Here’s what it means…

Take the first column as an example (orange). This means that 57% of mid-level leaders said that they were “yes, definitely” aware of the trends (including AI & technology, purpose and meaning, changing nature of talent, etc.)and taking action on them vs only 20% of people of the survey respondents (around 14,000 people) who felt the same way about their mid-level leaders.

This difference gives us the 37% gap and you can see all the gaps across the various responses and seniority levels.

I believe that perception is reality, meaning it doesn’t matter how good of a leader you think you are, it’s how effective your people think you are that makes the difference.

From my research, leaders think they are far more aware of and prepared for these 6 trends than they really are.

Host open discussions about these trends, allocate resources to explore them, make them a part of your regular conversation, run your own internal research projects with your employee base, and make sure the entire executive and leadership teams are doing the same.

There’s an organizational breakdown

There is clearly a breakdown between employees of all levels inside of organizations as far as awareness of these trends and how they are being addressed. The majority of leaders believe that they have a handle on these trends yet the vast minority of employees who work for these leaders actually agree (a 40% gap under “yes, definitely”). This can be due to numerous things such as strict hierarchy inside of organizations with lots of bureaucracy, lack of communication and collaboration, fear on behalf of leaders forcing them to focus on their own self-preservation, or any number of other factors. The fact that the more senior the leader, the larger the gap between them and their employees shows that perhaps they are removed from the day-to-day aspects of their organizations and need to spend more time understanding what’s happening on the ground floor.

The point is this, leaders must do a better job of learning about these trends and communicating and showing their teams that they are indeed are aware of these trends and are doing something about them. As a leader you may feel that you are quite comfortable with how things are changing but your employees need to know that, otherwise they won’t have the confidence and trust that’s required for you to lead effectively. You can’t lead if your employees don’t believe in you and your employees won’t believe in you unless you communicate your understanding of these trends and visibly demonstrate what you are doing to prepare for them and what you are helping others do to prepare as well.

Remember, employees oftentimes emulate leaders so by being more communicative and open about what you’re doing you are also helping your employees be more successful as well. Ask employees about these trends and what they think about them. Learn what trends your employees are paying attention to and why. Come up with a shared plan for how you and your team become more aware of these trends along with action items.

The research is clear, leaders can do better, they must do better. We need it and deserve it. Your people want to know that you are thinking about the future, about their future. Your people should be confident in you to guide them and lead them. There is a tremendous opportunity here, let this serve as your battle cry to step up, what are you going to do about it?


What does it take to lead in the future of work? For my latest book, The Future Leader, I interviewed over 140 of the world’s top CEOs and surveyed nearly 14,000 employees in partnership with LinkedIn to identify 4 crucial mindsets and 5 essential skills to lead in a post-covid world.

“Whether you’re a current or future leader, this book is one that you should read and keep near you.” Ajay Banga, CEO, Mastercard.

Click here to grab a copy for yourself and your teams, you’ll be glad you did!




4x Best-Selling Author, Speaker, & Futurist. Founder of Exploring Leadership, Employee Experience, & The Future of Work

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Jacob Morgan

Jacob Morgan

4x Best-Selling Author, Speaker, & Futurist. Founder of Exploring Leadership, Employee Experience, & The Future of Work

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