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Redefining Business Competence

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA – One of the most interesting parts of my job as a business school dean is engaging in candid conversations with leaders across industries. A few years ago, I started hearing a troubling refrain: business leaders are feeling the type of public disdain once reserved for politicians.

The problem is one of trust – or lack thereof. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that less than one-fifth of the global public believes that business and government officials will tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue.

That public sentiment is affecting business worldwide. The Duke University CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey found that nearly 60% of chief financial officers in the United States believe that a lack of public trust has harmed the business environment. Those percentages are even higher in other parts of the world.

Given the constant stream of security and data breaches and allegations of financial manipulation involving some of the world’s most respected banks, who can blame the public for feeling this way? Now, more than ever, we need leaders who can regain the public’s trust. To do that, we must redefine what it means to be a competent business leader.