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There’s a new game in corporate America, it’s called the “word” game, and it’s simply a smoke screen masking a larger and holistic issue of low trust as illustrated in the following quote:   Words sometimes serve as a smoke screen to obscure the truth, rather than as a searchlight to reveal it. (author unknown) One need only spend a few minutes scrolling through LinkedIn to witness this “new era” word game being played. These are among my favorites:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Engagement
  3. Culture
  4. Autonomy
  5. Centricity
  6. Disruption
  7. Talent
  8. Empowerment
  9. Wellness
  10. Emotional Intelligence

According to those who play this game best, these words represent the path to organizational salvation and success. There’s only one problem. They are wrong and they don’t. Trustworthy organizations cannot exist without a trustworthy leader, and they can’t be built “around” the leader. Instead, he or she must willingly accept the hammer, hit the nails and make sure they are straight. The hammer can’t be delegated to HR or middle management.

Trustworthy leadership “lingo” hasn’t changed. It’s always been and will always be about character, competence and consistency with some generosity thrown in for good measure. Or as we like to say, trustworthy leaders are VIPs: Values, Integrity & Promises kept.

If implemented, some of the “word game” strategies above may provide a temporary bandage for a festering wound, but sooner or later the infection will return.  Organizations run by trustworthy leaders don’t need new age lingo, they just need integrity. Sometimes “old” and proven works best.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Our 2015 Poster, 52 Weeks of Activities to Increase Organizational Trust is available to those who would like to support our work by making a small donation.

Copyright 2015, Next Decade, Inc.

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One Response to “Trust, Lingo & Leadership”

  1. January 16th, 2015 at 11:07 | #1

    Barbara, I would suggest that the words you cite are not “wrong,” just incomplete. I think mindfulness is important, as are discussions about culture, etc.
    But of course you are right that trustworthy organizations cannot be built without trustworthy leaders, and trustworthy leaders are “VIPs” (a great acronym).
    I believe we need to gently but persistently bring trust to center stage for leaders to think about and embrace, letting it emerge, along with other words and concepts if people so desire, as critical to better leadership.

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