The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer shows we are in the midst of a crisis of leadership and in order to build trust, leaders must embrace a new model of engagement.
Strikingly, this year’s data shows that less than one-fifth of the general public believes business leaders and government officials will make ethical and moral decisions. The data also shows traditional authority figures like CEOs and prime ministers continue to have lesser trust and credibility than employees, academics and “a person like yourself.” In fact, “a person like yourself” is now trusted nearly twice as much as a chief executive or government official demonstrating the continued democratization of influence.
We believe these findings point to the weakening of the traditional pyramid of influence – a top-down, authority-driven model – and its long-standing impact on communications strategies. As further evidenced by the data, the pyramid of influence has now been mirrored by a new, construct in which peer-to-peer communications reigns preeminent; we call this the pyramid of community. In the pyramid of community, social activists, action consumers and employees are powerful constituencies. Their authentic and ongoing horizontal communications matters.
We have moved from the few to the many, from dictate to co-create, from monologue to dialogue and from control to empowerment.
When viewed in relationship, these two pyramids map today’s communications ecosystem and come together to form the diamond of influence – the new reality in stakeholder interaction, engagement and management. In this environment, we know, leaders must espouse Inclusive Management, and:
- Establish a vision and transparently share reasoning, purpose and results.
- Enlist a broader range of advocates, including employees, action consumers, social activists, academics and think tanks, seeking their input and reaction.
- Embrace all channels of communications, actively listening to new voices of influence and adapting visions and products.
- Act. Shifting from vision to implementation with transparent measures guided by continual engagement.
This is not a linear process but rather it is dynamic, continual and evolutionary in nature. Consider Howard Schultz and his engagement of Starbucks* baristas in pursuit of business programs. Look at Adobe’s* product sharing cycle in which heavy users are asked for feedback on new products via social media before market release. Reflect on GE’s* new pathways to innovation in which ideas are crowd-sourced and are inspired through competitive engagement. All point to new thinking and new models of engagement.
In a world in which only 18 percent of the general public trusts a business leader to tell the truth, Inclusive Management offers a new pathway to success. There is no question that Inclusive management requires courage… but then so does success.
Ben Boyd is the global chair of Edelman’s Corporate practice.