A Boomer’s Guide for Millennials. The ABC’s of Leadership: ‘T’ is For Trustworthy

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective commutation. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Stephen R. Covey

My second article for this series, ‘B is for Believable’, is all about trust, so you can successfully argue that this article is somewhat repetitive. This is intentional, as the essence of this characteristic cannot be repeated enough. Regardless of the importance of the other characteristics, unless one is trustworthy, all of the others mean little.

Today we live in a world where there is little trust in leadership. This lack of trust extends to every sector of our society.

This lost principle of trust has shattered the foundations of almost all the relationships we have. To understand the erosion of trust, the ‘Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ answers how an empire so powerful as Rome could fall into ruin. Rome’s rise has been attributed to principled leadership, which was articulated by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, with these few words, “If it is not right do not do it, if it is not true do not say it”. After Aurelius’ death, the virtues of principled leadership were replaced by greed, self-interest and corruption that defeated the empire of its values and spirit.

In “Most Trusted Man in America – Trusted to Lead”, Robert Porter Lynch highlights how America’s first president, George Washington, was influenced by the teachings of Aurelius in his book ‘Meditations’. Lynch wrote, “Washington admired Aurelius’ stoic quest for wisdom, virtue, self-restraint, tolerance, and the dignity of all men. He controlled his fiery temper by practicing stoicism religiously, living by a simple premise: ‘What matters most is a man’s behaviour, not his ideas.’ Calmness and the ardent refusal to display hate or rage were essential to prevent the distortion of rationality, morality, and good judgment.”

Preventing the distortion of rationality, morality, and good judgment, not only made Washington the most trusted man in America, which he continues to be, it also laid the foundation for the rise of America.

As what occurred in Rome, America is falling. The virtues which made it great have been replaced by greed, self-interest and corruption, that is defeating their values and spirit. In every segment of our society we are witnessing the distortion of rationality, morality, and good judgment.

Mahatma Gandhi’s declaration must give us inspiration – “It is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honour, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall or it’s regeneration.”

As leaders, we need to be those single individuals to lay the foundation for that regeneration. If where we live, learn, work, worship and play has been contaminated by “greed, self-interest and corruption”, we have a responsibility to influence a return to the values of rationality, morality and good judgment, by practicing principled leadership.

Victor Lopez, Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Hofstra University, has offered “Ten Characteristics for Principled Leaders:

  1. They put the interests of the institution they serve above their own self-interest;
  2. They understand that characteristic is defined by the small acts they perform when nobody is looking;
  3. They recognize that respect must be earned and nurtured over time but can be lost in an instance;
  4. They promote their people, not themselves;
  5. They take responsibility for their personal failures and for the failures of the groups they lead;
  6. They share credit for their successes with the individuals who made them possible;
  7. They are consistent and predictable in their decision making and in the exercise of their discretion;
  8. They strive to do what is right rather than what is expedient, regardless of the consequences to themselves;
  9. They do not fear making unpopular decisions and clearly communicate their rational for making such decisions to those affected by them;
  10. They only serve institutions that do not require them to compromise their principles.”

These are great principles, however without dialogue, particularly between managers and their subordinates, just following the principles is not sufficient.

In the quote at the beginning of this piece, Stephen Covey speaks about effective communications and relationships. What I have found in a 2017 Mental Health America/Faas Foundation study called ‘Mind the Workplace’ is that effective communications between managers and employees is pretty much non-existent in most organizations.

Specifically, we found that for the majority of North American workers communication is limited to the annual or semi- annual performance review and when things go south.

Critical discussions are essential to fostering trust. As part of the Yale/Faas Foundation initiative called ‘Emotion Revolution in the Workplace’ we are advancing the ‘5 D’s of Engagement’(Discuss/Disagree/Debate/Defend/Defy). What I am finding is that emotionally intelligent leaders promote and encourage the application of the 5 D’s, and by doing so they enjoy relationships with their subordinates that is based on mutual trust and respect.

I am also finding that unemotionally intelligent leaders practice what we call the ‘5 D’s of Exclusion’ (Deflect/Deceive/Discredit/ Distort/Deny) which we can assert is the reason for the erosion of trust and respect which is dominant in every sector of our society”

We need more principled leaders who promote the ‘5 D’s of Engagement’ as an offence to those who practice the ‘5 D’s of Exclusion’.

Today the unemotionally intelligent leaders are winning, and if their dominance is not abated America and other democratic nations will fall.

(Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s Eye – Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire and a Public Voices Fellow at Yale University)

This article is part of a series currently being published on MoneyInc. Previous submissions can be viewed on the MoneyInc site by clicking here


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