For the last few years one message has been loud-and-clear when it comes to executive leadership online: We want our leaders to speak up on key societal topics.
The Edelman Trust Barometer, one of the long-time key reports in our industry, claimed this year that “when considering a job, 60% of respondents said they expected the CEO to speak publicly about controversial social and political issues that I care about.”
And we’ve all seen similar stats and figures just like that shared across different media outlets.
However, a recent Morning Consult survey paints a bit different picture. And may start to give us insight into the story behind the statistics.
One of the headlines of the survey is that Gen Z expects CEOs to speak out on political, social and cultural issues. 40% of Gen Zers said CEOs should communicate their position on or get involved in political, social and/or cultural issues. Only 17% of Gen Zers said CEOs should focus on running their business and not get involved in political, social and/or cultural issues.
It’s no secret Gen Z is asking and demanding more from leadership on these issues. So, this surprises no one.
However, the rest of the results just might. Just 20% of Boomers said they expect CEOs to speak out on political, social and cultural issues. With Gen Xers that number rose to 26%. And with Millennials it was 32%. So, not nothing, but also not an overwhelming majority.
What the majority of those other three generations did say was this: CEOs should only make statements about or get involved in political, social and/or cultural issues directly related to their business OR CEOs should focus on running their business and not get involved in political, social and/or cultural issues.
By the numbers:
- 40% of Boomers, 41% of Gen Xers and 43% of Millennials said CEOs should only make statements that connect directly with the business.
- 40% of Boomers, 33% of Gen Xers and 26% of Millennials said CEOs should focus on the business and not get involved at all.
That’s 80% of Boomers, 74% of Gen Xers and 69% of Millennials who think CEOs should either speak up only when it applies to the business or not at all.
I’d call that a pretty overwhelming majority of people.
Which leads us to one potential conclusion, that tends to make a lot of sense to me: A smaller, more vocal, and more online majority of people are driving this trend.
It also syncs up with the conversations I’ve been a part of with organizations over the last few years. “Should our CEO say something” is a question that’s often asked. But, just as often where we land is either “only if we can tie it back to our mission, vision and values” or “not at this time.”
So yeah, that makes sense to me.
It doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for every brand every time. But, I think it does give some good context to what has been a lightning-rod-type topic the last couple years.