January 29, 2021
Each year, the global communications firm Edelman publishes its Trust Barometer, which surveys thousands of people in scores of countries to construct indexes of the degree of trust in various institutions and individuals. The newly released Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 canvassed in late 2020 over 33,000 individuals in 27 countries. And although many of its main findings about the state of our world today are bracing, it also holds much promise for when you venture out from Tuck to better our world through business.
Start with the bracing: “The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world.” In terms of leaders, people around the world generally distrust government leaders, religious leaders, journalists, and CEOs – with trust in all four of these groups lower this year than last. Edelman’s trust index put CEOs slightly above these other three groups; that said, in some countries – including France and Japan – trust in CEOs fell to all-time lows.
And yet, when asked about institutions, the strongest performer was … business. People around the world today trust business more than they do the government, the media, and NGOs. Moreover, business was the only one of these four institutions whose trust level rose over the past year – and they were the only one of the four deemed to be not just trusted but also competent as well. And people generally report even higher trust in their own employer than in business overall, with “trust in my employer” stable or rising last year in 18 of the 27 countries.
Moreover, when asked what characteristics they value in CEOs, people cite more than just maximizing shareholder value. 66% of respondents agree that, “CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose change on them,” and a similar 68% agree that, “CEOs should step in when the government does not fix societal problems.”
What I conclude from this survey is that around the world people trust businesses more than most other institutions, people want business leaders to proactively engage with society’s problems, and people see lots of room for business leaders to be more trusted. Or, stated in our Tuck vernacular, around the world people are seeking business leaders whom they can trust to better the world.
What a great opportunity these sentiments present to every one of you. At Tuck, we define leaders as those who have the ability to craft a compelling vision for the future – whether, why, when, and how to change – and to guide the execution of that vision with and through other people. If people don’t trust you, then they will struggle to find your vision compelling and to invest in the effort required to bring your vision to life.
At Tuck, we strive to prepare leaders for a career of impact. Every day here at Tuck, our distinct learning community gives you opportunity to practice building trust among others, through your words and your actions. This trust will be a foundation throughout your career of bettering the world through business – and throughout your life.
Enjoy a safe and restful weekend. For those of you in the Upper Valley, keep warm!
Dartmouth has formed a high-level task force to plan for and manage possible disruptions related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, monitor federal and state recommendations, implement guidance, and communicate with our community.