The American mind has a very difficult time trusting those in authority. Perhaps we were more traumatized by the tyranny of King George or the dictatorial demands of authoritarian regimes from which we migrated than previously expected. Perhaps words like Watergate, Lewinski, WMDs, and deleted emails have broken down the walls of trust. Perhaps too many fathers have walked out, employers have flipped out, and pastors have skipped out. Regardless of the reason – we find it difficult to trust.
I see a few reasons:
1. Leaders are Flawed
Leaders are often held to a higher standard – and rightly so. But just because leaders should be better doesn’t mean they will be perfect. Leaders are human too and if you look closely – they’ll show you ever time. The nation was horrified in the early 1970’s when they heard the secret recordings of the President of the United States directly involved in felonies, cover-ups, blackmail, and fraud. The final trace of our national innocence disappeared with the release of those vulgarity-laced tapes and transcripts. A few years later we heard a man tells us, “Read my lips, NO NEW TAXES.” And then later we heard, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” We know that these leaders are human but we deeply long for them to be more than.
2. Rebuilding Trust Takes Time
It takes only a moment to break trust, but many years to rebuild. I’ve seen this time and again in counseling couples. Where there was once trust there is suspicion, in place of faith – only fear. Every time I share the same truth: Trust can be restored but the road is long and the steps are not always easy.
Think of the workers who are subjected to a continual management turnover. Every 12-18 months there is a new leader, with a new format, and a new direction. It’s little wonder why these workers don’t take the new leader seriously. After all, she’ll be gone soon anyway.
Think of the church who is subjected to continual management turnover. Every 12-18 months there is a new leader, with a new format, and a new direction. It’s little wonder why these church members don’t take the new pastor seriously. After all, he’ll be gone soon anyway.
Think of the children who are subjected to continual management turnover. Every 12-18 months there is a new leader, with a new format, and a new direction. It’s little wonder why these kids don’t take the new daddy seriously. After all, he’ll be gone soon anyway.
3. The Steps are Arduous
It is my belief that a leader can gain the trust of those he leads. However, gaining that trust is NOT going to be easy. You must:
Stay and Stay and Stay
Through the extensive research of Thom Rainer we see that it takes a new pastor 5 years to gain the trust of his congregation. This timeframe might also hold true for new stepparents, managers, politicians, and all other leaders. Longevity increases trust like nothing else. In a world of variables the soul tends to cling to any constant it can find.
Openly Discuss Your Flaws
Christian theology teaches that we are all sinners. Why do we insist on covering up this fact? The typical church member at Southern Hills could tell you that their pastor has a daily fight against his demons. They hear my stories and know. Every day I face off against the negative attitude, angry spirit, lustful eyes, and hateful words that fight to capture my soul.
Readily Admit Your Failures
I don’t always win. Sometimes, because I fail to seek the power of God, I lose the fight and my children, my wife, my team, and my church see my shame. However, I’ve learned that people are very understanding when we become very vulnerable. People don’t want a perfect leader they simply want an honest leader. And to demand perfection from our leaders only creates a culture of secrecy and hypocrisy.
Don’t Promise what you Cannot Fulfill
Too many times we write checks we are unable to cash. We promise the world and deliver nothing. This is one reason American politicians have become punch lines. Though it is important to dream big it is also important to have an actionable plan to accomplish your promises. This is not an easy thing to balance. If the goal isn’t big enough, it inspires no excitement. If the goal isn’t accomplished because it was too outlandish, it inspires no confidence.
I am a man who still believes in leadership. I hope to be a leader others find worthy of following. Flawed as I am – I promise to take the time necessary and the steps required to gain the trust of those who choose to follow.
Why do you think it is hard to trust a leader? What steps do you think are necessary in regaining trust? Do you think that trust in authority is a good or bad idea?