Is There Anyone Left To Trust?

A version of this article was originally written by a senior executive of a globally-renowned marcomms firm.

The world we live in is currently in the midst of a crisis of confidence where leadership is concerned. Every week there’s another data breach, another sexual harassment scandal, another school shooting, another boss or politician doing something unutterably stupid. Who’s in charge? Who’s keeping us safe? Who’s got it under control?

Trust has broken down. We don’t trust the government, we don’t trust corporates, we don’t trust the media and we don’t trust NGOs.

We – the public, schoolchildren, employees, everyone – are crying out for inspiration and leadership.

PR and marketing consultancy firm Edelman conduct an annual Trust Barometer looking at public trust across government, business, media and non-governmental organisations and 2017 was the first time trust has declined across all four.

The headline facts are as follows:

  • The survey covers over 33,000 people in 28 countries
  • Under 50% of all who took part trust the four institutions to do what’s right
  • Media – unsurprisingly – was the biggest casualty, now distrusted in 82% of countries surveyed
  • Less than one in four say CEOs are credible
  • That number falls to under 30% of people referring to the credibility of government officials

There seems to be a shared belief that the system is failing us to the tune of 53% based on questions focusing on people’s hopes and dreams for the future and their desire for change.

Interestingly and perhaps pertinently, in 19 countries (including the US and UK), the prevailing sentiment is that the system isn’t working and amongst others, the elite have weighed in – the top quartile of income, those with university degrees or higher and those who follow business and policy press feel the same way.

Social media isn’t helping to curb the feelings of distrust either. More and more people are using their own feeds to form and validate their opinions at the same time blocking other opposing viewpoints. The survey suggested that people are four times more likely to ignore information supporting a position they don’t stand with and over 50% won’t listen to people or businesses that have views that disagree with their own.

Perhaps the most startling statistic where media is concerned is that people trust search engines more than they do human editors and 64% say they trust leaked information (such as Wikileaks) more than official press statements.

It goes on and on. We are losing faith in everyone and everything.

However, there was some bright news!

Those who responded expressed high expectations for business to take positive action. It is possible to increase profits and be a beacon for the improvement of the social and economic conditions in their own communities. Business have the awesome power to be a partner ‘in addressing societal effects of disruptive forces like AI and globalisation’ and it all comes back to the same thing – leadership.

We have a new normal, so what must today’s leaders do to navigate the current climate of uncertainty and distrust?

Be Transparent

There’s no more important audience than your employees in a world where people trust ‘people like me’. Talk to them and engage with them and they will be your best brand ambassadors. Ignore them or keep secrets from them and you’ll find out pretty quickly what rats deserting a sinking ship feels like.

You Can’t Solve EVERY Problem

Align your causes with your business’s values but remember that it takes commitment and time. A fundraising day is great for morale but doesn’t nothing to further a cause. You need to commit to making a difference.

Two-Way Communication

The phrase used is communicate ‘with’ and not ‘to’. Online communities like TripAdvisor and Glassdoor offer leaders the opportunity to find out what people are ‘really’ saying about their businesses and it gives them the opportunity to work proactively on what’s being said, almost in real-time.

Hope For The Best; Prepare For The Worst

Leadership is proven in times of crisis. Successful leaders prepare. They cover all bases, all possible outcomes, the risks and the pitfalls. They think clearly and rationally and they make the right decisions at the right time, all overseen by their company’s values, mission and ethos.

In a global environment where doing the right thing seems more and more like an alien concept, the best leaders earn trust and they do it by being open, transparent, honest and driven by values we should all hold dear.

Anything less and we’re all screwed!

For more information on how to be a great leader, please contact us today.

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