The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer: Expectations for CEOs report explores the requirements and performance perceptions of CEOs in a world plagued by distrust. The report reveals that 84 percent of people expect CEOs to inform conversations and policy debates on one or more pressing societal issues, including jobs, the economy, automation, regulation and globalization. The study reveals that, contrary to the popular belief that younger workers are pushing the purpose agenda at companies, all age groups expect a company’s CEO to be personally visible in sharing its purpose and vision and in discussing the work their company has done to benefit society.

A major expectation of CEOs is to fill the gap left by government to help effect social change. With trust in government at only 43 percent (well below trust in business, at 52 percent), 64 percent of people say that CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it. However, respondents also gave CEOs low performance scores for their responses to government: “Speak out if government makes bad decisions” (26 percent), and “step in when government does not fix societal problems” (26 percent).

CEOs who do not speak out when it matters should anticipate paying a penalty: 56 percent of all respondents say they have no respect for CEOs who remain silent on important issues. To build trust, CEOs must lead with purpose, be authentic and galvanize employees.