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Gallup Confidence in InstitutionsA recent Gallup poll surveying the level of confidence that Americans have in their institutions reveals a frightening truth –  big business is ranked second from the bottom, just above (no surprise here) Congress (see chart).

The best employees are attracted to companies that inspire them – they help organizations to excel. Customers buy products that inspire them – they help organizations to grow. The media supports organizations that inspire them – they help organizations to leverage their reputation. We have the most confidence in those people, organizations,  ideas, activities and relationships that inspire us most.  And we can’t do this from the second to last position.

There is no better system in the world for creating opportunities, employment and raising standards of living, than capitalism. Equally, there is no greater mechanism in our society for doing damage. Therefore, the purpose of every organization is to make a plan, create a corporate culture, establish a leadership ethos and live a set of principles and values that change the world –  for the better, not for the worse.

Yes, it is important to increase shareholder wealth, to hit our metrics, to create jobs, and grow market share – but it’s even more important to make the world a better place, to have a dream, to inspire everyone with whom we connect, and to behave in a way that everyone admires –  and just as important, cause employees go home proud of what they do and who they work for, and convert customers into missionaries for the organization.

All of this requires courage and change, and I heard it said recently at a conference where I delivered a keynote, that the speed of change today is the slowest we are ever likely to experience.  Committing to becoming  an institution that others respect, trust and admire is the largest single leadership imperative of our time. And when we pull it off, we will become inspiring.

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