Honoring a Legacy of Grounded Leadership

It has been about two weeks since the passing of my father, Dan Edelman. In my comments at the memorial service, I highlighted how my father was a global citizen. Now, having read the beautiful international comments from current and past employees, business leaders and other individuals, I have a better appreciation for my father’s global impact. Blog posts, such as one by the Council of Public Relations Firms, also illustrate the pioneer work that early PR practitioners achieved. When understanding what my father represented and what our 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer findings indicate, leadership in global citizenship has a deeper meaning.

For context, here are a few comments from the posts that highlight my father as a global citizen:

  • Dan Edelman “put ethics and transparency above all else.”
  • His “best quality of all was integrity.”
  • He “led a business successfully and ethically.”
  • “We trusted each other.”
  • “No employee at Edelman was too small to gain Dan’s interest and time.”
  • “We all have to help each other out – that’s how we make a better profession and a better world.”

Characteristics exemplified by my father mirror societal factors highlighted in our 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer. Engagement and integrity attributes, such as treating employees well, exhibiting ethical and transparent practices, communicating frequently and honestly and taking responsible actions to address an issue are the essence of global citizenship. Operational factors, such as running a profitable business and having top-rated leadership are now “table stakes” to successful companies. Findings reveal that operational-based attributes, including financial performance and being recognized as a “best” place to work, were nearly twice as important in 2008 (76 percent) as they are in 2013 (39 percent).

Even more surprising is that less than one in five respondents trust business and government to make ethical and moral decisions or to tell the truth. Against this context, we can understand how leadership built on values in citizenship and corporate responsibility can help create a trust surplus.

Dan Edelman has left a lasting legacy built upon foundational values, such as inclusive management and grounded leadership, to evolve Edelman as a thriving company. His lessons are also applicable to companies that seek to create a better world through global citizenship.

John Edelman is managing director of global engagement and corporate responsibility.