Greenleaf writes: Legitimacy begins with trust. No matter what the competence or the intentions, if trust is lacking, nothing happens. …two kinds of [negative] trust: blind trust and trust generated by leadership charisma. …The only sound basis for trust is for people to have the solid experience of being served by their institutions in a way that builds a society that is more just and more loving, and with greater creative opportunities for all people.
Trust = a firm belief in the integrity, reliability, and truth of someone. ‘Competence’ and ‘Intention’ are important AND yet, if these are not rooted in ‘Trust’ then they become ‘clanging symbols.’ There are two types of trust that are more harm-full than they are help-full.
The first of these is blind trust. This type of trust results in ‘blind loyalty.’ The number of harm-full acts committed as a result of these two ‘blinds’ is legion. I knew a young accountant who sacrificed her career and her marriage as two consequences of her ‘blind loyalty’ to the CFO. She even stated that her ‘loyalty’ to the CFO was more important to her than her ‘loyalty’ to the Organization. By the by, Gentle Reader, one powerful antidote for ‘loyalty’ is ‘commitment.’
‘Commitment’ means that I care enough to challenge, to think critically, to act rooted in integrity, to question, and to, if necessary, ‘blow the whistle.’
The other type of trust that is ‘harm-full’ is the trust generated by leadership charisma. The poster-child for this type of trust remains Adolph Hitler. An entire Nation was seduced by his charisma. The Nation was looking for a savior and Hitler used his gifts and talents and abilities and stepped into the void and saved the Nation (for a brief period of time).
Charismatic leaders can, ironically, become seduced by their own charisma – they come to believe their own press clippings. When this happens, as it did with Hitler, then ‘delusion’ takes over. The consequences are, too often, catastrophic. Ask the Germans or ask the folks that worked in GM when a certain charismatic leader was its President.
Greenleaf knew that large institutions did and would continue to shape our society. His ‘Big Dream’ was that several of them would transform into ‘Institutions as Servants’ and serve by helping to build a society that would be more just, more caring and more loving. They would also provide greater creative opportunities for all people.
During the past 50+ years how many large institutions have served our nation so that our society has, indeed, become more just, more caring and more loving? How many of them have served so that all people have had greater creative opportunities? Some have – many more have not. Perhaps they have not because ‘We The People’ have not demanded that our society become more just, more caring and more loving.
The paradox, of course, is that Greenleaf’s ‘Big Dream’ requires both ‘I’ and ‘We’. To what extent do I choose to be more just, more caring and more loving and to serve in ways that promote and support one or more others to be more just, more caring and more loving? To what extent do I bring my voice to a ‘WE’ voice that calls for our society to serve one another so that a more just, more caring and more loving society will emerge? Greenleaf, even today, continues to challenge us and in challenging us helps us become more aware and a bit more, if not a great deal more, disturbed.