Promises, big asks, and optics are common for many of our CEOs. However, a lack of follow-through is eroding trust, which bodes ill for our future.

Tesla’s production numbers were lower in the second quarter of this year due to part shortages, similar to the construction industry. To be honest, there wasn’t much that could be done about it. Because computer chips, plastic components, and glass are all in short supply, cars were built with gaps that had to be filled later.

Elon Musk was forthright about this in a memo to employees. And, in laying out the plan for the coming quarters, he mentioned the backlog with a push to speed up production: “This is the biggest wave in Tesla history, but we have to finish it. Elon, thank you very much.”

Thank you very much? Business is backed up due to no fault of Tesla employees, and the exhortation to work harder and faster is met with only a “much appreciated.” What motivates employees to double or triple their efforts? A quick thank you in a company-wide memo?

Unfortunately, Musk is not unusual in this regard. A 2018 story highlighting the CEO’s penchant for lofty goals, massive asks, and big promises with little to no follow-through.

According to the article, Musk once sent a note to his employees following an investigation into high injury rates at one of Tesla’s factories. He extolled the importance of safety and well-being, then requested to meet with each injured worker as soon as they recovered to learn about the nature of their injury.

“That’s PR; that’s bologna,” one Tesla employee said, while others who were injured claimed Musk never met with them.

Musk is not alone in the game of promising and asking but not delivering. It appears to be a common practice among American CEOs. Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s much-lauded CEO, came under fire for promising a focus on DEI in the company’s hiring – and then failing to deliver. Jeff Bezos, CEO of online retailer Amazon, signed a pledge to care for employees before removing health insurance from part-time workers.

Yes, this is an issue with leaders, but it is also an issue with business in general. We can now anticipate statements demanding more from employees while providing little compensation. When promises of remuneration are made, they are frequently just for show.

As a result, trust is eroding. Customers are less likely to believe business promises. Employees have less faith in their managers. We nod, acknowledging that CEOs’ bold, empty statements have some PR value, but little substance. Trust in institutions in general is dwindling, and while studies show that Americans seem to trust business leaders more than government officials, approval ratings remain dismally low: Only 48% of us have faith in our CEOs.

What is the significance of this? How and where do we invest our personal energy, skills, and resources if we don’t trust business and its leaders – or our governmental institutions? In general, we don’t. We suffer from stress, malaise, and indifference, disillusioned with those who should be our sources of guidance and inspiration. As a result, productivity and innovation are declining. We are at a standstill. We are falling behind.

However, this is not a “too late” scenario. Business leaders in all industries can defy the trend by stepping up their communication and strategy efforts. The principle is simple, but the execution can be difficult: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be truthful. Admit failure and fault while charting a course of action.

Nobody wants perfect leadership; it’s completely unrelatable. They are looking for vision, commitment, integrity, and honesty. It is past time to reverse this country’s downward trending trust index. It’s time to shift to genuine growth, even if it means falling short of lofty targets.