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  • Writer's pictureRory Campbell

Trust, institutions, society & leadership

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

If you're a leader who cares about the confidence held in you and your organisation, then the latest 2020 Trust Barometer, Edelman's 20th Global annual survey into trust and credibility, is essential reading.

It’s also a real wake up call.

Given my New Vantage Consulting is focused on helping institutions create leadership and strategy imbued with purpose, connection and trust, I'm struck by how Edelman’s survey suggests that ‘fears are overwhelming hope’ and what leaders and executive teams can do about it.

So, what are the key considerations for the leaders and businesses we support?

  • Over half - 56% - of citizens believe that capitalism today does more harm than good in the world. 66% of citizens don’t have confidence that the current crop of leaders will be able to address their country's issues. This is particularly perceived of CEOs, journalists, Government leaders and, especially, the very wealthy.

  • Whilst globally, trust has increased by 1pt the gains are driven by non-Western markets. The UK and the US slip further into 'distrust' by their citizens by -1% and -2%, respectively.

  • Sectors experiencing the greatest decline in trust are technology and entertainment. It's interesting to note that in many ways these are both pervasive horizontals (fundamental to organisations in all sectors) and dominant verticals (sectors in their own right).

  • Regular employees, academic experts and company technical experts are generally rated as more credible than CEOs and boards of directors.

  • Looking beneath the headlines reveals a deepening ‘trust inequality’ between what Edelman describes as the ‘mass population’ and the ‘informed public’. For example, there is a 18pt disparity in trust between UK informed public - 57% - and the mass population - 39%. Globally, the mass population, on average, don’t trust any institution. That should concern us all.

  • Whilst business is nonetheless seen as competent and NGOs are seen as ethical, no institution is seen as both competent and ethical. And across them all, there is a distressing disparity between how institutions are perceived to serve the interests of only the few, versus everyone equally.

Of course, these are headline stats which, when articulated at this level, miss the ground and community level nuances. There’s no doubt that clients, customers and staff are demanding better from business, and with integrity.

As leaders of institutions we have a need and a responsibility to redress the balance, to demonstrate the good that can be done and work harder to serve the interests of all stakeholders.

And that’s why I love working with courageous executives who embrace their responsibility to regularly stand back, take in the big picture and understand what's really happening at all levels of their business, society and industry.

I’m exhilarated when working with boards who want to deepen their understanding of how they are paying attention to the differing interests of all their stakeholders…and if they need to, do something about it.

I’m inspired by leaders with the courage to ask “how trusted is my institution?”

Perhaps that’s why I find Edelman's most compelling finding to be that ethical drivers are three times more important to company trust than competence.

So, given these deeply interesting insights and perspectives by Edelman how can New Vantage Consulting help?


  1. Expertly facilitating your leadership team through a frank exploration of your purpose, how your strategy - and its execution - aligns, and the true extent of your people’s ability to bring that purpose to life whilst balancing the demands of doing business.

  2. Bringing the view through the eyes of your people to the top table and supporting development of your response on emerging themes such as the future of work, the ethics of technology, social inequality, diversity and inclusion. In doing so creating partnership with, and enhanced by, your employees. 

  3. Establishing strategic employee engagement approaches and bridging the trust inequality gap, beyond the standard approaches to employee engagement. Bringing employee voice into the boardroom as a part of the fabric of how you work through mechanisms such as shadow boards, reverse mentoring schemes and the proactive sharing of knowledge and power.

  4. Translating strategic ambition into practical plans and action, led by boards connected to the big picture and the grounded in reality, delivered by and with people recognised by employees as credible.

Whether you're a board seeking new perspectives to help your business get ahead, a newly appointed senior executive needing to build trusting connections with your employees or a business needing hands on, passionate change and communications support, we’d love to hear from you.

Let's find new vantages for tomorrow's success.

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