Servant Leadership and Societal Trust

Societaltrust      “Executives tempted to take shortcuts should remember the dictum of Confucius that good government needs weapons, food, and trust. If the ruler cannot hold onto all three, he should give up weapons first and food next. Trust should be guarded to the end, because without trust, we cannot stand.”

~Financial Times Editorial

Stephen Covey (Stephen R. Covey’s son) highlights the fifth and final wave of trust in his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything as Societal Trust. This wave of trust is all about social responsibility. And societal trust creates clearly observable and measurable results.

The overriding principle of societal trust is Contribution. The intent of contribution is to create harmony not destroy it and to give back instead of take. Servant Leaders understand the principle of giving instead of taking. Contribution is aligned with corporate citizenship. Many companies today are involved in corporate citizenship also known as corporate social responsibility. And this makes for a healthy society.

The French proverb, “Fish discover water last” is a great illustration of societal trust. For fish, water simply is, right? They do not fret or worry about it. They are deeply immersed in it and are unaware of its existence- until it becomes polluted or even non-existent.

In the same way, people discover trust last. That is, they forget that it is an integral part of the fabric of society- until it becomes polluted or compromised. Then the realization hits us that trust is necessary to our very well-being like water is to a fish. Servant Leaders understand that without trust, our society closes and down and self-destruction is imminent.

Thomas Friedman talks about this is his bookThe World is Flat wherein he says that trust is essential to a flat or open society. Flat or open world communities thrive on behaviors like the 13 Behaviors discussed in Covey’s book. To summarize those behaviors again, I ask you, do we as a society:

  • Talk Straight?
  • Demonstrate Respect?
  • Create Transparency?
  • Right Wrongs?
  • Show Loyalty?
  • Deliver Results?
  • Get Better?
  • Confront Reality?
  • Clarify Expectations?
  • Practice Accountability?
  • Listen First?
  • Keep Commitments?
  • Extend Trust?

Servant Leaders know that the 13 behaviors are so important on an individual as well as a societal level. Even more so, the dividends of a high-trust society include:

  • Shared knowledge
  • Medical breakthroughs
  • Technological advances
  • Economic partnerships
  • Cultural exchanges
  • More options and opportunities

With these ideas in mind, the value of societal trust lies in the very fact that Servant Leaders commit to a measure of success that takes into account not only the financials of an organization,  but also social and environmental impact. I leave you with a quote from James Surowiecki of Forbes magazine on societal trust,

“The evolution of capitalism has been in the direction of more trust and transparency, and less self-serving behavior; not coincidentally, this evolution has brought with it greater productivity and economic growth. That evolution, of course, has not taken place because capitalists are naturally good people. Instead, it’s taken place because the benefits of trust- that is, of being trusting and of being trustworthy- are potentially immense and because a successful market system teaches people to recognize those benefits.”

To Societal Trust,

Dr. Crystal

Leave a Reply