Emerging trust vacuum may explain Trump phenomenon

The Trump phenomenon in the run up to the US presidential election could be because of a trust vacuum, a new study reveals.

Consumers complain of a trust vacuum in business organisations and institutions including the media and politicians – with older people now among the most disaffected, according to a report commissioned by the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC).

The AoEC is launching an initiative today designed to build a new generation of trusted leaders based on a comprehensive analysis of the core characteristics of a trusted leader.

The AoEC’s identifies ‘trust vacuums’ across an array of institutions and market sectors that create opportunities for both malicious disruptors and emerging leaders. The US presidential race, by common consent, is an example of this phenomenon.

John Blakey, author of ‘The Trusted Executive’, who is leading the AoEC initiative, identifies three fundamental qualities that are necessary for people to trust a leader: ability (able to deliver results), integrity (reliable in behaviours and maintains a consistent set of values) and benevolence (doesn’t act purely in own interest).

Older generations are more mistrustful

According to Omnibus polling for the AoEC, 57 per cent of people over the age of 55 say they have lost trust in corporations, businesses and other institutions in recent years, with virtually no one (2 per cent) saying their levels of trust have improved. Conversely, people under 25 appear to be less cynical, with over a third saying they have more trust in these institutions than they had previously.

Agreement of a trust vacuum in politicians was particularly high among older people, with less than 7 per cent of over 55s saying that they trusted MPs and nearly three quarters indicating that they did not trust them.

This compares to nearly a quarter of 18 – 24 year olds who trust politicians. This cynicism towards politicians, particularly among older people, could explain the post-truth, anti-establishment phenomenon of Donald Trump who is seen by some as an alternative to the politics as usual, despite many fact-checking websites pointing out the multitude of inaccuracies in his public pronouncements.

When asked to think about which attributes they looked for in a potential leader, honesty, fairness and the ability to deliver results were viewed as the most important across all age groups; however, communication skills and creative thinking were valued more highly by young people than older generations.

Gina Lodge, CEO of the Academy of Executive Coaching, thinks that it is crucial  for business leaders and politicians to rebuild this trust issue.

Lodge says, ‘The decline in trust that we are seeing creates a difficult context for business leaders and politicians, but it should also be seen as a potential opportunity. Organisations that can demonstrate their trustworthiness will be richly rewarded and develop a loyal following that is becoming all too rare nowadays.’

Author John Blakey adds, ‘Trump has shown that creating a compelling narrative to support your argument can be hugely effective in building a following, but it can only take you so far. Ironically, Trump has succeeded in occupying the trust vacuum at the heart of politics by demonstrating a certain flexibility with the truth.

Blakely says that this is a perfect example of how maverick leaders can exploit the current trust vacuum in all walks of life if mainstream leaders do not seize the opportunity to build trust by focussing upon their ability, integrity and benevolence.

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