Reducing the trust deficit
Today’s leadership coaches spend a great deal of time on qualities such as vision and communication skills, but one important element is often missing: character development. The kind of character I am referring to is being truthful – say what you mean; mean what you say; and back up what you say with action.
Unfortunately, we as a society are so consumed with being politically correct, we not only stop saying what we mean and meaning what we say; but also stop expecting the kind of truthful character from our leaders and public figures. The downside of not being truthful is that we as a society experience a trust deficit.
Trust is not only the core of a society’s moral fiber, but also the foundation of our economic system. Trust cannot be demanded. One has to earn it. In a free economy, you will only exchange goods and services with someone you can trust, someone you know who says what he means and means what he says.
If later you found out that person has been dishonest, you would stop trading with him again. When too many such incidences happen, the economic system will be damaged. Frederick Douglass said “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”
For those of us who are entrepreneurs, we know we are not in business to sell goods and services. What we are selling is a guarantee that we will make good on our promises. Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
A business person’s character is the foundation of their business. If the foundation is shaky, the business itself will fail sooner or later. My father always told me that speaking the truth is the only way to live freely.
Being truthful, saying what you mean and meaning what you say, takes great courage. Recently, I finished reading Peggy Noonan’s biography of President Reagan. In this book, Ms. Noonan described how President Reagan’s steadfast commitment to speak the truth about the Soviet Union and Communism on the world stage eventually brought down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet regime. Ms. Noonan wrote that a “dictatorship cannot continue forever in an atmosphere of truth”.
We live in a challenging time. Many of our problems can be solved if we are willing to have honest discussions and take action. To reduce our trust deficit, let’s start saying what we mean, meaning what we say and back it up by action. Let’s demand the same character out of our leaders and public figures.
Dr. King said “Time is always right to do what is right.” That time is now.