General Election 2015: How can business win back the public’s trust

by .
Originally published in Management Today

Do the right thing!

Trust is a funny word. It’s been used and abused by business leaders and politicians almost to the point of exhaustion. Too many vacuous speeches and hollow promises, often broken. Trust is earned by actions, not words. It’s an outcome, not a message. It’s what you do, not what you say that counts. Businesses still hide behind slick marketing and communications campaigns – as though clever PR can build trust or even save them. It can’t and it won’t. To borrow from film-maker Spike Lee, ‘Do the right thing’ or they will get you.

Businesses should think about trustworthiness, rather than trust. Trustworthiness demands reciprocal vulnerability. Businesses need to make themselves vulnerable to employees, customers and wider stakeholders, just as those groups always remain vulnerable to them. Trustworthy leaders recognise the world has changed and that they are no longer in control. They co-produce their leadership, ideas and strategies with real people and think and behave more like social activists than conventional CEOs. Their organisations think in terms of citizenship, not consumption, and prioritise the common good. Accountability is everything.

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