I was recently watching a John Oliver YouTube video about televangelists whose charities are somewhat suspicious, and it got me thinking about experts, “gurus” and “influencers.” Sadly, there are plenty of phony preachers in that space too. In fact, a colleague likes to remind me that not all trust experts are trustworthy. Imagine that!
These are some first-hand examples of phony preachers:
- The leadership “consultant” who seeks out sound bytes from those with real expertise for an upcoming paid speaking “gig.” After all, why pass up the opportunity to get paid even if it’s for a speech you are not qualified to deliver.
- The prolific leadership “writer” whose work is never written by them or even original. Quotes lifted from famous philosophers, entire blog entries cut and pasted from the work of others. And when called out, lies about it.
- The world “renowned” nominee who asks for a vote for “Thinkers 50,” but who freely “borrows” PowerPoint and Slideshare presentations from those with genuine expertise, and when caught redhanded, brushes it off.
- The “character expert” who writes about plagiarism, but doesn’t bother to check (or care) whether those whose work they themselves reference is original or plagiarized.
- The “trust guru” who forgets to say “thank you” when a good deed is done for them.
Is it any wonder that trust continues to decline across all major institutions? After all, if the advisors, coaches, thought leaders, experts and influencers are not living that which they preach (and that’s being polite,) what other outcome could possibly be expected?
But every story has a silver lining. It’s called a bell curve and like any business, even in “trust” there are some real deals. I am honored to know many of them who have been named to our annual Top Thought Leaders in Trust over the past seven years.
In the early years of this annual recognition, someone suggested that there need not be a requirement that the honorees walk their talk. Imagine that suggestion! The “real deals” are not those who are the most active on social media or who claim a (t00) long laundry list of accomplishments. Instead, they are often the voice you may not hear, and whose name you may not recognize… researchers, scholars, consultants and leaders who have put in their time, paid their dues, and have earned the privilege to speak, consult and guide others. People with real credentials who know what trust is and act accordingly.
When I was a kid, my dad liked to remind me not to allow anyone to “pull a snow job.” If you’ve never heard that expression, Merriam-Webster offers the following definition: “a strong effort to make someone believe something by saying things that are not true or sincere.”
Anyone can call themselves an expert. It’s up to the “buyer” to determine if they’ve earned the right to use that title.
Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Barbara also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance, is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and a Managing Member at FACTS® Asset Management, a NJ registered investment advisor. In 2012 Barbara was named one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International, and in 2017 she was named a “Fellow” of the Governance & Accountability Institute. Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA.