The Long Road Back to Trust
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In reading an article by James daSilva “Why are leadership thinkers silent about Floyd and the protests?”, we had to respond. We are thoughtful people, so we don’t always respond unless we have something thoughtful to offer. He didn’t include us in his list of 100 list of leadership thinkers, but as business school professors and leadership researchers, we DO think and write about leadership and crisis. Additionally, as Christians, we look at the crisis of leadership that led police to kill a young man over such an insignificant act. There is no justification for how those police officers treated George Floyd. He was a child of God, made in his image. There are people in jail for more heinous crimes, yet George Floyd had to lose his life over a counterfeit $20 bill.

We look at leadership through our own ROCC model: are leaders reliable, open & honest, competent and compassionate. In this instance, we have to conclude that the leaders who have allowed bad actors to continue to discriminate against young black men as grossly incompetent. The sad truth is that whether it is in the police force or at work, when others see bad actors allowed to continue their toxic behavior, others wonder if they, too, can get away with their own bad behavior.

Moreover, those who have good intentions get demoralized seeing bad actors being allowed to remain in positions of power when they should not be allowed to do so. This undermines trust within the culture of the organization and little by little, others on the outside see that toxic culture, as well, and do not trust it.

When leaders are not consistent in their pursuit of justice FOR ALL, trust is broken. When leaders are not transparent in their motives and actions, trust is broken. When leaders are not competent in the way they do their job, trust is broken. When leaders show that they DO NOT CARE about their people, trust is broken.

The hard truth about trust is that once it is broken, it is very hard to rebuild. One of the reasons for this is that the very steps needed to rebuild won’t be taken by those that violated it in the first place. The trust-violators need to acknowledge their sins, ask HOW they can repair the trust, and then ask for forgiveness. Only after they have been forgiven does the healing begin. How often does admitting wrong take place? Once the lawyers get involved, that’s even less likely to happen.

We have seen broken trust too many times in our lives and in our research, which is how we know how hard it is to rebuild. As a white woman and an Indian-American who study trust, we cannot know the sorrow of George Floyd’s family, but we can pray for them and for all who mourn.