Leaders (especially today) have a tough job. Our whole society has gone from one that respects leaders to one that naturally distrusts and dislikes them.
When President Eisenhower was in power in the 50’s/60’s, the world assumed that the leader’s word was the gold standard, and the nation was deeply rattled to discover that there was a government cover up in the downing of Gary Powers and his U-2 spy plane. How could a president not tell the truth?
People admired world leaders and routinely included them in ‘most admired people’ lists. In fact, in the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower (for men) and Eleanor Roosevelt (for women) topped the most admired lists. Both politicians. One a military general and a president, the other the wife of a president. Interestingly, they were from opposing political parties.
Today, world leaders can make stuff up and no one really bats an eye. Fair or not, we don’t expect anything else.
Think about it. When a business person or a politician or a religious leader (or almost any kind of leader you can think of) is featured in a movie, guaranteed they’re the villain.
Think of the institutions that have been hurt by leadership scandals in the last few decades:
No need to elaborate on the tawdry and sordid dealings of Presidents and Prime Ministers that have been made public. Most politicians that you know are great people. But it’s assumed that they aren’t just because of the profession they’ve chosen.
Think Enron and other CEOs being led out to police cars in handcuffs. Think Bernie Madoff and Ken Lay (Enron). Remember the term “moral hazard’ from the last financial scandal?
I was actually asked on a podcast how I advise leaders who treat their employees like Amazon allegedly does, forcing them to pee in bottles instead of taking breaks. Just for the record, I’ve never in my long career personally witnessed an ethical violation like that. And I sit in the top secret meetings of every client I work with. Everyone I know is trying to build a better culture. Can you really attract or retain anybody with the ‘peeing in the bottle’ break plan?
How do you bring that up in the interview? “Oh hey, and just before you sign the employment agreement, you should probably know about our innovative, cost-efficient, bathroom policy…”
But Amazon makes the headlines.
While the vast majority of religious leaders are wonderful people working for pennies, (I know scores of them) the sex scandals that have made the news haven’t helped any of them. Sad and infuriating for all these amazing, caring, servant-hearted people.
Think Red Cross blood donor scandals, and mixed messages from health officials.
Does anyone believe that a lot of the mainstream media isn’t making up stuff out of whole cloth expecting a gullible public to swallow these canards? Or fear mongering on a variety of topics to get clicks and increase advertising? Or at least that large swaths of the media doesn’t appear to be super concerned with an objective retelling of any given story?
No need to elaborate. We know that the overwhelming majority of these folks are decent people trying to do a tough job, and have also taken a pretty serious black eye in the last few months.
Back in the day, the Jackie Robinsons of the world were heroes and role models to everyone. Today, Tiger Woods and so many others have changed the perception of the athlete as the leader to look up to, to the entitled multi-millionaire looking to have a great (selfish) time.
Someone recently sent me a Joe Rogan podcast interview with the King of Conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones. I think he would agree with that label. It had just under 30 million views. Thirty. Million. Views. Think about that number. I don’t care about the content of the podcast.
And for the record, I think the moon landing really happened, and the earth actually is round, and that the JFK assassination was done by a single shooter. But think about what those numbers represent.
This tells me that people aren’t wholeheartedly trusting what they are told by their leaders (!)
These are just the institutions that pop to mind that have been undermined in the perception of the public. Probably there are more. Fair or unfair. It’s just reality.
And you wonder why it’s hard to build trust
And here you are, a business leader. And you’re completely ethical and a great person, just doing your best, as virtually every actual business leader I interact with is. And it feels like all you get is criticism.
Remember that the world is programmed to disbelieve you, not to believe you. If you’re going to build a team based on trust, you have those hurdles to overcome first. People are trained to be cynical and assume you’re not trustworthy until you prove otherwise.
And if you’re a leader, criticism is part of the package. We need it too. Feedback, both good and bad, is critical.
But when you feel discouraged, remember this quote, and remember that our world needs credible leaders today as much as at any time in history. You’re so important. Our world hinges on you doing your duty and leading the way to a better future.
I love this quote:
“You’ll never be criticized by someone doing more than you. You’ll always be criticized by someone doing less. Remember that.”
The secret of getting ahead is getting started!
Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.” He is also co-founder and senior instructor at professionalleadershipinstitute.com https://professionalleadershipinstitute.com/
Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here: https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-Skills-Dramatically-Performance/dp/1632651068