Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
-President Abraham Lincoln
It seems that no one has credibility anymore. Just read the headlines or watch the news for five minutes to hear claims and counter-claims of those on the screen. Countries don’t believe each other, elected leaders don’t trust government bureaucrats, people don’t trust their elected or business leaders, and consumers are wary of those tracking their every move in an effort to sell them more stuff. Even institutions and people operating with great integrity are under scrutiny to prove the merits of each and every action they take.
Much of this erosion of trust is well-earned. This year marks the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation, an important moment in our country’s history. Since that time our public discourse has become even more divisive and the evolution of the Internet and a 24-hour news cycle have created an environment that does not allow for reflection or thoughtful analysis of events and their meanings. On a positive note, the ability that citizens and consumers have to create a movement or expose wrongdoing has increased, even in countries where this was unimaginable a generation ago.
How does a general environment of mistrust impact efforts to develop communities and take action? In an era where business, government, and academic institutions must act together to get anything accomplished and to move our society and our communities forward, credibility is a more important than ever. A lack of trust in our institutions and civic leaders is a real liability when trying to take advantage of opportunities to meet some of our most intractable social and economic challenges. A lack of trust in business fundamentally changes the employer/employee and business/community relationships necessary to scale and grow.
I would also argue that there have never been better tools to create engagement and build trust. The very things that make it easy to tear down credibility are also the things that can be used to engage citizens, gather feedback and assess public sentiment. Two thoughtful pieces on this are worth a read for any business or community leader:
- 6 Ways to Become a Credible Leader and Team, from Inc. Magazine
- Richard Edelman on how leaders can regain the public’s trust, from McKinsey & Company
One Columbus Update
- This week, Kenny McDonald will travel to Washington, D.C. to take part in the 2014 White House Forum on Economic Development, hosted by IEDC, SelectUSA, the White House Business Council and the National Economic Council.
- Our team will also host companies considering the Columbus Region.
- Columbus will be visited by the Democratic National Committee this week as they consider location options for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. On Wednesday, August 6, we’ll join Columbus 2016 for a welcome rally at Nationwide Arena Battelle Plaza. Everyone is invited – please join in!