Exploring the Value of Leadership Approval Ratings

The most prestigious leadership position this country has to offer is that of the President of the United States. And while it may be the most prestigious, few would disagree that it is also the most heavily scrutinized. Fair or unfair, public opinion of the President’s job performance shifts regularly due to any number of factors. Yet at any given time, we can quickly see what the general public thinks about the President’s job performance by looking at their approval rating.

I’ve always found this concept of a President’s approval rating to be fascinating. After all, it is extremely subjective and based on an incredibly small sample size but it is widely accepted as a relatively accurate reflection of how we all feel. This practice of using public opinion polls to determine an approval rating was introduced over 65 years ago by the Gallup organization and it’s hard to dispute their findings. In reviewing the historical approval ratings for the last dozen Presidents, it appears to be a pretty accurate representation.

My assumption is that a President doesn’t obsess over their approval rating. That said there must be value in having a quick snapshot of where you stand in the eyes of your people.  Imagine one day having a 90% approval rating, making an important decision, and then the next day seeing your approval rating drop to 40%. Obviously, there’s a take-away there that could impact your subsequent courses of action. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to reverse your decision but perhaps it may cause you to re-examine your methods of communication regarding the decision you made.

This has me thinking about other practical applications for leadership approval ratings. Is there a place in corporate America for leadership approval ratings?  We regularly hear about the need for greater transparency in organizations. If your CEO were to begin tracking and publicizing their approval rating on your company intranet, what impact would that have on the organization and your CEO? Furthermore, if there’s value to be found in an approval rating for the President, or your CEO, wouldn’t there also be value to be found at other levels of leadership throughout the organization?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts around a corporate leadership approval rating in the comment section below. And, visit Why Lead Now tomorrow for part 2 where we’ll discuss ways for you to begin thinking about your own leadership approval rating.

Adam Morris is a featured blogger at Why Lead Now, one of LeaderChat’s sister blogs, focusing on the next generation of leaders.

4 thoughts on “Exploring the Value of Leadership Approval Ratings

  1. I agree that approval ratings are effective and have their place. For whom is the question.
    Most successful leaders do what is right, and if they have a clear vision and mission, their decisions and leadership will follow the path already established. We get to judge (after the fact) based on the outcome. So the ratings may be more for our advantage than for the leader.

    The approval rating may have an impact on future actions and decisions. Most likely, though, the leader will follow the path of what is right. Those thoughts and actions are part of the DNA of the leader.

    Sadly, poor leaders do what they want, regardless of what is right or wrong, and regardless of approval ratings. (Hitler, Jim Jones, Sadam Hussien come to mind).

    So, approval ratings tell us what others are thinking. We need to know what our leaders are thinking and doing, and then decide if we want to follow.

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  3. I believe your thoughts about an approval rating is interesting. What is unique about the American people is that were are all in different places and season and have differing beliefs. For me, I evaluate the President on the values he upholds. Yes, he is charged to uphold the Constitution as well as the core values that our nation was founded.

    In our current climate, it appears leaders are afraid to stand on the truth. Because if too much is revealed a certain percentage of the voting population will not respond favorably. As long as our economy is moving forward most people really don’t care about core values only about their best interest.

    In the corporate arena where the primary driver of many large organizations is the stock price and year end financial results usually determines the success of the leader. If we earned a bonus this year and dividend payments were made at or above budget then once again the leader will probably receive a favorably rating. This still does not mean strong values are being upheld.

    Many businesses in American do not have clearly defined value statements. So for this reason alone it will be difficult to get a fair rating. If the value statement of a business is centered on Christian beliefs then now we have a measuring stick. The leader is charged to uphold these values and walk it out everyday. If the values are not defined, then you can really just make it up as you go which then allows other leaders within the organization to choose their own methods to solve conflicts.

    If you are always trying to live up to an approval rating then a potential obstacle may be pride and we become fearful of losing our jobs or not getting re-elected.

    It is possible that sometimes we focus too much on trying to create something new or presenting information in a different a way. Approval ratings are best documented when people within the organization are passionate about serving a cause much bigger than themselves. They aim is to make a positive impact on the world they serve. The leadership is emotionally healthy (not perfect) and this health is getting passed along to those under their care. Husbands and wives as well as their children are being impacted because of strong value based leadership. Because of this, the percentage of divorces within America will be reduced. Why is this significant? Many employees spend 8 – 10 hours a day away from their families.

    It is my passion to positively impact the world for our children and grandchildren. I agree, we all need to be held accountable.

    What is the divorce rate for those men and women serving in Fortune 500 companies? I don’t know. My point, highly educated people get caught in the trap of life which is more, more and more. I am not suggesting that abundance is a bad thing by any means. I believe in capitalism.

    To change the world, we have to be willing to reduce our pride, let go of our selfishness and be willing to follow God. This requires us to love those that are hard to love and keep loving them. This requires us to yield to our natural desires.

    You will be able to measure the fruit of this leader by the lives he impacts for multiple generations. A new tab on the company intranet may be trendy but will it really be useful?

    Thanks for allowing me to ramble a bit.

    Hugh Arney

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