Trust leaders to get it right?

With Australia’s government diverted yet again by leadership instability, no wonder voters are turning off in droves. People simply want politicians to do the job they were elected to do. Australians’ disaffection with politicians is by no means rare, according to new research from global PR firm, Edelman. Edelman’s 12th annual trust barometer showed a plunge in sentiment toward political leaders around the world, with government trailing business, media and non-governmental organisations as the least trusted institution in 12 countries. This is both a caution and an opportunity for business, according to firm President and CEO, Richard Edelman. “Business leaders should not be cheered by government’s ineptitude, especially as trust in the two institutions tends to move in synch,” Edelman says. “There is still a yawning trust gap for business, as evidenced by one half of the informed public respondents saying government does not regulate business enough.” He advises leaders to broaden their definition of leadership and show that business is a force for good. “Our research shows that current trust levels are built on consistent financial returns, top management and innovative products,” he says. “However, engagement-oriented behaviours that are more societal in nature, such as treating employees well… are vital to building future trust.” Just make sure it’s not window-dressing, urges workplace expert and author, Nan Russell. There’s much to learn from Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ hard-driving, tight-fisted boss. “There were no false proclamations from Scrooge,” Russell says. “As self-serving and stone-hearted as Dickens’ character was, Bob Cratchit (his employee) understood Scrooge was who he said he was.” His management style may leave a bit to be desired, but Scrooge walked the talk. “What plagues many workplaces a hundred and fifty years later is that our alignment is way off,” Russell adds. “What we say and what we do as leaders and managers in most organisations fuels the spiral of discontent and distrust.” In the end, Scrooge accepted feedback and managed to transform himself, a point supported by the Edelman research. Says Russell: “There’s still time to ignite the talents of those we lead, rebuild the trust, open a dialogue, and build a winning future together of economic well-being.”


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