Persistent barriers are preventing people around the world from breaking through a “leadership glass ceiling”, according to a new report from public relations and marketing agency Ketchum.

The Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor 2016 (KLCM) outlines the significant obstacles that still exist on the path to leadership – from race and gender to disability. The report also highlights the growing gap between the expectations we have of our leaders, and reality. This has resulted in what the report calls a “global leadership crisis”.

Over the five years of the annual study, 25,000 consumers from five continents offered their views on leaders across 22 industries. This year’s study gathered the perceptions of 3,000 people.

Shattering the class ceiling

Respondents see multiple hurdles to leadership opportunities. Two-thirds think disability is a barrier, while over half consider gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation to be obstacles.

Image: KLCM

The report’s authors describe this as a “multi-dimensional leadership glass ceiling”, which is stopping people from reaching the top in areas from business to politics and local communities.

As the World Economic Forum’s own Future of Jobs report has highlighted, women remain underrepresented in positions of leadership.

Image: World Economic Forum

Respondents in the KCLM study doubt the effectiveness of laws and legislations. They see company-level and individual action as more powerful tools for change.

What are people looking for in a leader?

The infographic highlights the difference between expectations and reality. Less than a quarter of people see leaders as effective, while just 13% think their leaders take appropriate responsibility.

There is also a gap between respondents’ political priorities, and the extent to which they think politicians are tackling them. Equally, less than a third see their leaders as effective communicators.

This is a major issue for leaders around the world, as communication remains the second most important characteristic people are looking for.

Image: KCLM

Over the past five years, the skills people are looking for in their leaders have remained relatively consistent. Leadership by example, communication and admitting mistakes score highly. Quality of service and trustworthiness are also considered important.