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Does 'post-truth' have implications for management and leadership training?

Posted by Steve Read on January 6, 2017

In my last missive I bemoaned the lack of integrity amongst some leaders. The Oxford Dictionary has since declared its word of 2016 as ... 'post-truth'. The definition is given as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief'. So it's clear to see why polititians embrace this. And at the same time we should consider their trustworthiness. Here are the results of the 2016 Ipsos Mori survey on trustworthiness of different professions:

1. Nurses

2. Doctors

3. Teachers

4. Judges

5. Scientists

6. Police

7. Clergy / priests

8. Hairdressers

9. TV news readers

10. The ordinary man / woman in the street

11. Civil servants

12. Lawyers

13. Pollsters

14. Managers in the NHS

15. Economists

16. Charity chief executives

17. Trade union officials

18. Local councillors

19. Bankers

20. Business leaders

21. Estate agents

22. Journalists

23. Government ministers

24. Polititians generally

The truth will out in the end. Maybe in 20 years' time the word of the year will be 'post post-truth'.

So, I promised to talk of some good leaders. Good leaders I think are only good when other people say they are. My example of two good leaders, working together, is Herb Kelleher and Colleen Barrett - Exec Chairman and President respectively of South West Airlines in the US. Southwest is a very successful airline, making profits when others have struggled to do so. Southwest has some unique ways of working. In both recruitment and in performance management, ability to work with people is important - they call it 'relational coordination'. It relies on clear, frequent, timely communication, on problem solving rather than blame, on shared goals, on relationships, on shared knowledge and on mutual respect. These principles were exemplified by Kelleher and Barrett. Leadership isn't the reserve of the heads of the organisation, and Kelleher expected all of his managers to exemplify these principles. Kelleher himself was the role model, backed up always by Barrett.

An operations agent in Phoenix said 'if I didn't work at Southwest I wouldn't work in the industry'. A ramp manager said 'They have both got so much credibility. It's taken a while to get to that point. They've created this level of honesty with us'. A pilot said 'He's the guiding light. He listens to everybody. If you've got a problem, he cares'. A flight attendant said 'Colleen and Herb are genuinely interested in creating jobs for people'. Kelleher said 'My mother taught me that. She talked a lot about how you should treat people with respect. She said that positions and titles signify absolutely nothing. They're just adornments: they don't represent the substance of anybody'.

I imagine there is little 'post-truth' at Southwest - just good leadership and truth.

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