The First Step in Rebuilding Trust During the Government Shutdown

If you're not extending trust, you're not leading. As I was sifting through updates on Facebook last night, I came across an interesting photo that one of my friends “Liked” on her Facebook page. The picture was of a letter sent from Republican Congresswoman, Ann Wagner, to Dan Strodel, Chief Administrative Officer, requesting that her pay be withheld throughout the shutdown. Ann’s request is not a common one but struck me as an excellent indication of her leadership style. If over 800,000 government employees are unable to work and collect a paycheck, why should members of Congress be exempt. Ann stated in a comment, “As a result of partisan bickering and gridlock, I have waived my salary for the duration of the government shutdown because congress didn’t get the job done.  Those who make the laws should have to live by those laws, and I will continue to fight for the people of Missouri’s 2nd District.”

I’m sure some readers may be thinking, “She’s a republican and is part of why the shutdown is occurring in the first place.” In fact, as I was doing some research on Wagner, I came across an article that disapproved of Wagner’s actions. However, regardless of your political stance, you have to applaud her for making such a bold move and not exempting herself from the same fate as the other “non-essential” government employees. That is the mark of a true leader and also a trust building attempt.

In the new book, Trust, Inc., Randy Conley, trust expert at The Ken Blanchard Companies, writes, “Trust is based on perceptions, so each of us has a different idea of what trust looks like. For leaders to be successful in developing high-trust relationships and cultures, they need to focus on using behaviors that align with the ABCD’s of trust.” The ABCD Model of Trust is an acronym that stands for:

Able –Being Able is about demonstrating competence.
Believable – A Believable leader acts with integrity.
ConnectedConnected leadership shows care and concern for people.
Dependable – Being Dependable and maintaining reliability.

Unfortunately, trust in our government leaders has been taking it on the chin for some time now. Fortunately, Conley outlines the five-step process in rebuilding broken trust in the book. The first step in rebuilding trust is to acknowledge that a problem exists, followed by leaders admitting their part in causing the breach of trust. The third step is to apologize for their role in the situation in order to move on to assessing which elements of the ABCD Trust Model were violated. The final step is for the leader and the offended party to agree on what they can do differently moving forward. This is clearly not an easy task. Stephen M.R. Covey, another contributing author to Trust, Inc. acknowledges that leaders need to take the first step in order to increase influence and grow trust in a team, organization, or community. Covey states that the first job of a leader is to inspire trust, and the second is to extend it.

I don’t think that the action Ann Wagner took will have much impact on the direction of the other Congress members nor the direction of the government shutdown. However, I do believe that she took the first step to increasing and growing trust in a highly untrustworthy and difficult situation.

As we wrap-up a second week of the shutdown and the two parties attempt to come to a compromise, what are you doing to demonstrate your leadership values? Share your thoughts here or on the How Gov Leads Twitter page, #leadinginashutdown.

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  1. #1 by Alicia on October 10, 2013 - 5:41 am

    I too have taken note of Ann’s actions and the comments that follow. I remember my husband always being asked why his aviation ordnance shop 242 was so tight. He always said it was because the shop suffered together, and with record breaking flight hours, lost weekends, and missed holidays he wasn’t kidding. Although some may argue that Ann is independently wealthy and this won’t make a different; the fact is she is still taking steps to rebuild Trust: acknowledging there is a problem and admitting her role in it. While her actions may not effect change for the American people, I believe, she is trying to Connect with her people of Missouri, and take responsibility for a job not done.

  2. #2 by Hernán Elizondo on October 11, 2013 - 5:20 am

    I think that all processes have opportunity for improvement and there has to be an initiator having the authority to generate, influence and improve it.

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