One of the most “burning issues” of the past year is the question of trust, more specifically trust in leadership. The pandemic has widened and deepened the trust gaps that emerged in recent years. The Israel Democracy Institute issued a report which indicates that Israel is experiencing a total collapse in the amount of trust the public has in all institutions. Election polls too show a similar trend, with none of the candidates winning even 50 percent of the votes in the question of who is most suitable to be the prime minister — or in other word, the public does not trust that one of the candidates is equipped to lead the country. It seems as if the public is gathering in small, leadership-free boxes, or “bubbles,” but there is one sector which is still gaining the public’s trust, the employers.
This trend is prevalent beyond Israel. According to the 2021 Trust Barometer study, issued annually by strategic consulting agency Edelman (published earlier this week), reveals that people around the world rank “my employer” as the most trustworthy entity in their lives – more than politicians, journalists, religious leaders and even more than “a person like me.” This makes a lot of sense, since the two things people fear the most these days, according to the same study, is to contract Coronavirus as well as to lose their job.
In many countries political leaders have performed mediocre — or completely failed — in dealing with Covid. The business sector, on the other hand, knew how to respond much more decisively. It was the private sector that produced the vaccines in record time. Business owners around the world have found creative solutions to operate under social-distancing practices. Many retailers have undergone a digital revolution, that will take a decade for the public sector to carry out.
But beyond that, in a time of leadership crisis, people turn to their closest environment. We spend many hours in our workplace every day. Our profession is an important component of our identity. We can like them more or like them less, but either way, our co-workers are somewhat of a “second family.” Therefore employers are much more than managers, they are leaders, and they must behave as such.
I do not mean that managers from the private sector should form a party and run for the Knesset, my point is quite the opposite. Managers need to take responsibility in their field –the private sector — and lead important social changes from within their businesses. Employers can promote agendas like gender equality, reduce social disparities and raise environmental awareness much better than any government. In present times this is exactly what is expected of us.
Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows that 68% of the world’s public expects managers and employers to express their views about important issues and address problems governments neglect or fail to deal with. These days, our responsibility is even more crucial. Our employees, who are in fact the majority of the public, expect us to provide them with reliable information and to take measures to protect their health and ensure their livelihood. So long for the days when businessmen, executives and companies could stand aside and roll their eyes with disappointment from the government, while fearing to make any clear statements.
We managers must understand our place and positioning and use it to promote the common good and bring about change. We need to communicate with our employees as we would expect our government to communicate with all of us. And above all we need to embrace our new status and just lead. Not be afraid, take a stand, lead a positive change. No one will do it for us.