A Renewed Model of Connection And Leadership

Most voters trust local leadership and distrust national leaders.

— -- Today, it is the call of the small, the local is the focal.

In a just-released ABC news poll, we see the American public trusts smaller and locally based institutions and governments way more those that are larger and more distant from where voters live and work. The American public sees the small and local better equipped to do their missions effectively and act in their best interests.

Small business, local governments, and local media are seen in a significantly better light than their larger and more distant counterparts. Citizens across nearly all partisan divisions believe that the local and the small institutions are the ones that consistently act on their behalf. The federal government, large corporations, the United States Congress, President Obama, the national parties, and the national media are seen at best as mediocre and at worst as disconnected from representing and serving the interests of average voters. For most voters they trust local leadership and distrust national leaders who represent larger entities.

Interestingly, when one looks back on history, we can recall that the most profound change and leadership emerged and has happened starting in our local communities and neighborhoods. Leaders who speak the truth and serve compassionately amongst our locales are the ones that have fundamentally changed the world.

Jesus lived and traveled his entire life in an area smaller than most cities of today. Buddha taught and acted in a very tiny regional area. Mohammed lived and spoke in sands and tents of his community. St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt an entire church and showed the world a new way to act remaining his entire life in a geographic span smaller than most of today's neighborhoods.

It wasn't the tactics employed of television and radio, the internet or public relations and advertising professionals that made them powerful agents of change in the world. It was the power of the truth they spoke and their actions done locally that changed people's lives.

Leaders of today can learn from this poll and from the lessons of leaders from the past that authentic change is trusted and desired in smaller ways and done in our communities. We again need to relearn a lesson that if leaders want to be successful and build genuine trust and connection among the public, they must operate and engage in smaller and more local ways.

The political parties would be smart, when designing policy and solutions for our needs, to recognize that voters while looking for a community response, don't necessarily want a distant disengaged federal program. Both political parties seem stuck in a broken reaction. Many Republicans oppose government initiatives, but lean on large corporations as credible. Many Democrats recognize the need for government intervention, but too reflexively push federal and national government based solutions. Neither party is speaking for where the country desires to go.

Small businesses are seen as best representing our interests, but businesses continue to consolidate and grow larger further disconnecting themselves from and losing the trust of average folks. One understands cost savings and critical mass can be had by centralizing operations into larger entities, but what good is it for the business if it means you lose the faith and trust of your consumers?

The wave of today and for the future is for leaders to design new models that serve and relate more locally. Leaders need to be creative in building and extending operations and responses out of the boardrooms of Wall Street and of the halls of power in Washington, DC. One of the best ways out of the lack of faith and polarization we feel in our old leadership models is to move in a more local and smaller method.

And when one looks at a generation breakdown, younger voters are demanding this even to greater degrees. The success and attraction of locally lead social entrepreneurs is the harbinger of what most young people are hungry for. It is time for leaders in business and in Washington to recognize the old structures aren't trusted and don't effectively serve the interests of most Americans.

Again we see that voters in this country while not sophisticated are ahead of most national leaders on what works best in their lives. As I have always said, national leaders don't lead, they follow where the country already is signaling they want to go. The best leaders figure that out and then try to get one step in front of the direction the country is already moving.

I climbed the ladder of perceived success all the way to the White House and became an expert at modern communication tactics, and finally realized that the most enormous impact we can make happen is in our local communities, families, and relationships. It took my walking in the traditional halls of power of business and government to rediscover where real power is -- in the small circles of my life. Leaders would be wise to pay attention to this new ABC poll and where success can be discovered.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent.

Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.