The culmination today of what has been a drawn out and debilitating public debate should be no surprise to Australians.
The rest of the world is clawing its way back from the economic turmoil since 2008. Australia however, a nation whose economy fared remarkably well and one that remains relatively stable, continues to lose trust in government and business leaders alike.
We have seen at state and federal levels, on both sides of the political spectrum, that leadership is tenuous.
Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer, the 13th annual global survey of trust and largest survey of its kind, found that since 2011 trust in government by informed publics has dropped from 52 per cent to 43 per cent of those surveyed, with approximately 53 per cent citing ‘poor performance and incompetence’ as the main reason for trusting government less.
Conversely, overall trust across both the developed and developing markets jumped 13 and 12 percentage points respectively.
So what’s going so wrong here?
Somewhat prophetically, for the first time this year the Trust Barometer examined the gap between trust in the leadership of institutions and trust in institutions themselves.
The gap was stark. Not just in Australia and not just in government. CEOs and political leaders continue to languish in the list of credible spokespeople, behind academics, technical experts and, outside of Australia, people like ourselves.
And certainly the last two weeks in Australian politics has highlighted that this gap has real and lasting consequences when it comes to trusting leaders to do the right thing.
This is fundamentally a question of public engagement. A simple, clear, and strong story that you and your organisation can use, to build lasting and trusted relationships with the people that matter, in ways that relate to them, is critical.
Commentary on the latest political leadership rumblings has focused on words like ‘overcoming division’, ‘unity’, getting back ‘on message’, back to ‘core values’, talking about the issues that matter, and stopping the ‘hollow rhetoric’.
This comes back to the value of a core narrative. A strong central story is not about consensus; far from it. It should be about generating discussion, opening up dialogue and creating a positive platform for engaging with individuals, groups, and communities.
A strong story is about resilience. It is adaptable, flexible, withstands change and constantly looks to the future while being cognisant of its context.
The path forward for leaders of all organisations, be them political, not-for-profit, or publicly listed, must be about looking to build trusted relationships with all their stakeholders through better storytelling…no spin.
Clare Gleghorn, Associate Director and head of Organisational Communications, Edelman Melbourne