An interview with Fordham professor Robert Hurley caught my attention. His new book, How to Create a High-Trust Organization, puts the emphasis about the issue of trust in the right place. It is only partially the responsibility of the receiver to develop trust in someone. The primary responsibility, however, is for the person being considered to act in a trustworthy manner.*
Just listening to the rhetoric of the political season one gets the impression that the problem with trust in this country is a statement about the citizens. That’s exactly the opposite of reality. The emphasis on trust depends upon those who need to be trusted.
When we read that less than 10% of the voting public express trust in the members of Congress it is justifiable that the report is greeted with shock and dismay. The most venerable and historically significant body of people in this country has been, and should be, those who have been elected to the highest legislature in the nation. After all, it is they who consider and approve legislation that affects the daily lives of every single citizen.
Over the past decade the trustworthiness of the members of Congress, however, has plummeted as scandals, ineffective methods, and personal acts of self-centered thinking has characterized these members. The people of the United States have expressed a feeling of being distanced from the members of Congress. Inactivity and inappropriate activity have idealized the role of politics to a point that the people have lost faith in their Representatives and Senators to act on behalf of those who have elected them.
The big political issue of the current season has circulated around the question of how to regain the trust of the voters. Simplistic answers have been to disregard intelligence, science, and previously-successful methods of legislative practice and to embrace populist, knee-jerk causes. That, however, has failed to accomplish the task of re-building faith in the people who populate the seats of Congress. The Members and Senators have failed to embrace trustworthiness. To the contrary, they have chosen to embrace political methodologies, and it has only further diminished the trust the people have in their leaders.
Trustworthiness is based upon consistency, thoughtful consideration of issues, the embrace of truths that are clear and transparent, and compassion. Saying that makes it sound like the public wants a Congress made up of practicing Boy Scouts. That isn’t exactly the case. People want adults who think and act like adults. They want action that enhances the lives of all Americans, not just one segment of the populace. They want leaders who know how to lead and are not afraid to withstand criticism for legitimate actions taken. They want honesty at all levels, even when it hurts.
To “become” trustworthy is not something someone can simply declare, as in “From today forward I am going to be trustworthy.“ What is required is the embracing of methods which demonstrate effectiveness and concern. Constitutional consistency is important; but the understanding of the Constitution as a document in progress is also important. That requires hard work, study, reflection with intelligent experts, and modesty in the promotion of truths relating to pertinent legislation. People want to know that their representatives in Washington are working hard on their behalf. Being a Member of Congress is not an entitlement; it is a hard job which should be given to a person who has the ability to carry it out in a way that elicits the trust and faith of the voters.
Photo Credit: Lucky Puppy Gallery
*This issue is similarly applicable to organizations or institutions, but for the sake of this posting, I am focusing on the trustworthiness of individuals.