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Trust, Communication, and the Science of Well-Being

Why every leader needs a personal credo

A credo is a statement of personal belief. In a world of competing perspectives, we each represent something distinct that is born from our values and communicated through our actions.

If we’re not careful, the push and pull of others’ opinions and divergent motives can impede our ability to listen to the voice inside. Over time, our decisions can drift away from what we believe.
By writing a personal credo, we’re forced to clarify our beliefs in the context of our lives.

A credo externalizes our innermost thoughts in a way that readily translates to the types of decisions we face every day. This crystallized representation of our principles acts as a compass in our noisy world, helping us align our actions with our beliefs.

Contrary to what business schools profess, the real decisions of leadership do not conform to a list of rules. These defining choices are governed by an individual’s own values, sense of judgment, and self-knowledge. A leader’s credo, therefore, should address three essential categories of values-based decision making: balancing priorities, overcoming adversity, and inspiring others.

The responsibility of leadership is often the hard work of balancing priorities. This imperfect process is one of the most human business experiences that exist.


Massive crises put culture on display

Over the past several years, I’ve studied the role of trust in massive social and environmental crises and two remarkable events stand out from the pack: the BP Oil Spill (Deepwater Horizon) and the Chilean Mine Rescue.

By comparing these events, it’s easy to see how corporate culture influences crisis management. Moreover because the crises occurred in different hemispheres and required the help of experts from a variety of different backgrounds.

In fact, social norms affect how citizens, companies, and governments organize to solve some of the most daunting humanitarian and environmental crises on our planet. Comparing these two specific events reveals how in the U.S. and more specifically–inside BP’s corporate hierarchy, culture clearly hindered progress. However in Chile, culture enabled one of the most successful rescue missions ever.

During times of great turbulence, the truth often rises to the surface. Extreme stress drives people and organizations into a state of decision-making that Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman refers to as “System One,” in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. This impulsive and emotional state of decision-making is common when people are under stress, lacking sleep, and anxious.

Therefore, the things people do and say everyday, their habits or automatic reactions, take over. And in poor ethics and values cultures , these default behaviors are not suitable for public scrutiny.