Trust Barometer – A Wake Up Call

March 9, 2020
Darryl Cooke

Executive Chairman

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Why would anyone be led by you, follow your vision, and do what you need them to do if they don’t trust you? We are not sheep, we are not slaves and we will only give everything to our leaders if we trust them.

Which is why the latest Edelman Trust Barometer (2020) is so concerning. So what exactly is the report? Published for the past 20 years, it surveys 34,000 people across more than 28 countries on whether they trust institutions “to do what is right.”  It’s not an evaluation of the institutions. Rather, it evaluates whether we believe in those institutions. Of course, this is critical because institutions can only exist if we believe in them.  The participants all have a high level of education and are qualified to ensure that they have thought about the answers.

It should be even more concerning if you are a British leader of a business. The results are catastrophic and for the more enlightened amongst us and those with a growth mindset a call to arms. Of the 28 nations studied we are seen to be the least trustworthy, with only Russia worse. That must have been a challenge. 56% of people say that capitalism, as it exists, does more harm than good in the world. Of the various institutions, NGO’s, government, business, media, only NGO’s are seen as ethical

  • 66% said I do not have confidence that our current leaders will be able to answer our challenges
  • 76% said that ethical drivers are more important to trust than competence
  • 73% said that companies can take action that both increase profits and improve conditions in communities in which they operate
  • 74% said that CEO’s should take the lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it
  • 92% said it is important that my CEO speaks out on income equality, climate change . diversity, immigration, ethical use of tech
  • 73% of employees expect their organisation to shape the future of society and to be included in the planning

Family businesses and private companies are the most trusted, state-owned and public the least.

Depressing reading or if you have a growth mindset, a call to arms.

What should a leader change?

  1. Leaders need to understand that they are ‘servant leaders’. That means very simply that the business comes first and you are there to serve the business not yourself. If you are a servant leader then this report becomes very important to you. It is a wise educated audience telling you what you need to know. It is a call to arms and an opportunity not to be lost.
  2. It may require education. Being a leader is a constant learning process. It is not sufficient to understand the finances. Your people are looking to you to play a wider role in the community. So you need to understand and have views on climate change, diversity, equality, poverty and opportunity, the ethical use of AI, immigration. If you don’t have a view you should widen your reading and quickly get one. It is not good enough to delegate this to your HR team. You need to own it and take responsibility. So you must understand it. CSR is dead. This is the new CSR. No longer is it acceptable to pass the responsibility.

Whose responsibility is poverty? Whose responsibility is it to look after the disadvantaged? Whose responsibility is it to watch over and care for those in need? We have tried government and it just doesn’t seem to work. Every new prime minister paints a picture of a truly utopian society. Every prime minister fails to create such an outcome. The intentions are good, but achievement is limited. Paper after paper is produced. Committee after committee is established. Such efforts almost always lead to failure whether because of bureaucracy, conflicts of interest, too many stakeholders or the cost of investment programmes such as ‘War on Poverty’ which was designed to deliver a great society in the 1960’s but didn’t, or New Labour and it’s equality rhetoric or Cameron’s Big Society or even Beatrice Webb’s Minority Report on the Poor Law in 1909 – all failed.

Whose responsibility is it? The common answer appears to be all of us. But that doesn’t provide focus and doesn’t acknowledge our weaknesses or play to our strengths. It just leaves too much to chance.  If you carry on doing things the same way then you will undoubtedly get the same results. The Edelman barometer is clearly telling us that we need to look to our business leaders.

A leader must be authentic. Leadership is about total authenticity. It is not about style and it is not about is being the person that you were made to be. It is about becoming the person you seek to be. As you read listen and learn you will become more compassionate and then you will become passionate. It is about sharing and using that passion to lead your people. When you understand your purpose and your values your business will become a better place, your people will trust you more as you show your vulnerabilities along the journey. They will become proud of the business they belong to and will follow you because they trust you.

You will change, they will change, the business will change. The business will improve because of the engagement of everyone.

And we just might, if we all do it, no longer challenge Russia for the last step on the ladder.