WE Study Reveals a Dramatic Shift in Leadership Behavior


after a year of profound upheaval, executives say they are more vulnerable and ready to listen to more stakeholders

SEATTLE – APRIL 14, 2021 — Today, WE Communications (WE), a leading global communications firm, released results from a new Brands in Motion study, “Rethinking the Purpose and Meaning of Leadership.” The research reveals a dramatic shift in executive leadership behavior, prompted by the global pandemic and ongoing moments of social upheaval. Citing a year of profound disruption, 86% of brand leaders surveyed say they’ve become more introspective. Seventy-one percent say articulating personal core values and elevating their voice is more important than it was a year ago.

“Our world changed overnight and disrupted every organization and industry worldwide,” said WE Communications Global CEO and Founder Melissa Waggener Zorkin. “Our research shows that our collective pandemic experience, along with other recent social upheaval, forever changed how business leaders create impact and communicate with stakeholders. Navigating in this transformed world requires a new level of introspection and vulnerability.”

Self-Reflection is prompting new types of thought leadership

More than half say they have deepened their awareness of personal fears, limitations, defenses and impulses, and are working to identify gaps between their intentions and actions. This introspection has driven executives to identify new ways to lead their businesses in how they show up and impact the world around them. New behaviors include tuning in and acting on employee concerns and aspirations, as well as engaging a wider than ever community of stakeholders:

  • 89% say engaging with issues that affect their employees is a moral obligation.
  • 78% believe they must lead with greater empathy.
  • 74% say stakeholder collaboration is more important than it was a year ago, with 71% saying a top focus is more learning and engagement with women, Black and Indigenous people, and People of Color in employee and community settings.

“Leaders have learned they must embrace new behaviors to meet the new expectations of the employees they depend on and the communities and customers they serve,” said Noah Keteyian, senior vice president, Corporate Reputation & Brand Purpose. “It all starts with listening — to themselves and their stakeholders — with a new vulnerability that opens up more opportunity for dialogue, understanding and positive action. If there is one critical motto for business leaders to achieve success in 2021, it is this: ‘Tell me more.’” 



About Rethinking the Purpose and Meaning of Leadership Study

WE partnered with YouGov to field a Brands in Motion study, “Rethinking the Purpose and Meaning of Leadership.” The research surveyed more than 300 C-suite executives, senior-level managers and key decision-makers in the United States, the UK and Singapore.  



WE is one of the largest independent communications and integrated marketing agencies in the world. We’re all about people — both our clients and employees — and we believe in the power of communications to move audiences to positive action. Female-founded, female-led, and fiercely independent, WE has spent more than three decades helping world-class brands tell technology-led transformation stories that shift perceptions and change behavior. 

Our global reach includes offices in 21 cities, partner networks that expand our footprint and client capabilities, and a team of more than 1,200 media and content strategists, creatives and data scientists across our technology, health and consumer sectors. Our work with global brands like Microsoft, Honeywell, McDonald’s, and Volvo has been recognized by Cannes Lions, The Holmes Report SABRE Awards and PRWeek Awards, just to name a few. 


For more information, press only: Kara Kraft, WE Communications, 503-443-7143, karak@we-worldwide.com