Perception is key in leadership. It’s not only having the right intention or doing the right things. It’s not only personal leadership. It’s also meeting the expectations of all kinds of stakeholders. These stakeholders have become much more intrusive than in the past, because of the digitization of information. The boundaries are dissolving. ‘In’ and ‘out’ are difficult to define in today’s networked organisations.

That’s why the ‘newspaper’ test of leadership becomes more important[i]. All kinds people of newspapers. When leadership actions and decisions are ‘newspaper’ proof, they meet the interests of all stakeholders. And as communication can no longer be controlled, this awareness of the societal impact of organisations is no longer an issue for the CEO or official spokesman.

Leaders as Dirk Beeuwsaert, Jan Vanhevel or Frank Meysman who work in large, multinational organisations acknowledge communication as an increasingly important and difficult task for their leadership. As Frank Meysman (Thomas Cook) says: “I see the growing necessity to be able communicate in an effective way with different stakeholders.” Dirk Beeuwsaert (GDF Suez): “The number of actors in the context have increased, and we have to deal with all of their expectations.” Jan Vanhevel (KBC): “The CEO is more and more put in the spotlight.”

[i] PAINE, L. (2006). A compass for decision-making. In MAAK, T., & PLESS, N. (2006), Responsible Leadership. London: Routledge, p. 54-67.

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