Trust Is The Mortar

My Grandfather "Smokey", my sister, and Smokey Bear.

My Grandfather "Smokey", my sister Colleen, and Smokey Bear. Unknown which cousin is in Grandpop's arm.

Trust is the mortar, the bond between power and responsibility.  Without empowerment, people are unable to act on their vision.  Give someone power and they are free to create all kinds of possibilities.  And in turn, if you give someone power and they squander those opportunities, those with power are reluctant to share it again.

There are several reasons why “leaders” fail to empower others, some of which involve the hesitancy to trust others to use the power wisely.  There may have been a precipitating event to foster this mistrust, or a cumulative effect may have occurred.  There are those who distrust others based on perception.

Take, for example, those who mistrust others because of outward appearances.  If you come into my place of business to get a job and don’t look professional, if I’m trying hard to convey a professional appearance, then you shouldn’t be surprised if it requires me a moment to trust in you.  Dressing the part goes a long way toward opening doors; in fact, it opens more doors than closes them.  But this is just the beginning: speaking my language- not just English, but using intellect and knowing the jargon- permits me to believe I can trust in you that you know what I know.  Using logic permits me to believe that you are mature and understanding of the options, and thus, maybe trustworthy.  None of this in and of itself should establish your credibility; you may dress like a slob and be a genius.  You may not have good English skills and yet have an amazing amount of information to share.  You may be one of those crazy artists who isn’t very logical, but has an excellent abstract way of looking at a problem.  But each of these things allows me a good feeling that I can take as: this person understands that what I think is important, they think is important.

Now while you can dress the part and talk the talk, that doesn’t make you trustworthy.  That’s the realm of the con man.  That gets you in the door.  The essential element is that once I allow you to open the door, you prove that the small amount of trust I hand over to you is nurtured and used appropriately.  Furthermore, if I permit you this trust, if something goes wrong, instead of stepping away from the situation, you own it and work to resolve it, I’m more willing to at least extend you a certain amount of trust again.

It’s completely give and take and it requires a certain amount of credit and repayment.  But given that transactional experience, a partnership between people is formed and the bond increases, just as mortar cures over time.

Right now in Haiti, for the survival of their nation, true leaders must come to the forefront.  They have an opportunity to rebuild their nation and make it strong.  There was a lot of work to be done before the disaster and the squandered trust between the “leadership” and the people is certainly a problem.  But when I know for fact that a lot of work is needed to restore their infrastructure, that indicates to me many opportunities for people to shine, to show others their devotion to hard work, to innovation, and to creativity.  If the leaders really desire change for the better, they need to foster a new generation of Haitians with power to improve their economy and their standard of life.  And while the disaster is only a week or so old, and the devastation so close at hand, it makes it difficult to focus on the future, but the future is there and waiting.  Once the fog lifts, enlightened leaders should seek those who desire a strong nation and employ them to rebuild it.

In this nation as well, there are those of us who are sick and tired of the two party system, the system that seems to be all about itself and not about us, and desire leaders who don’t give in to the rhetoric of the ultra-left or ultra-right.  There are those of us who simply desire to do right by each other, to look out for one another and not see things in the extremes but in shades of gray, because we all have value, and we should all be able to engage our dreams, but not at the expense of others’ dreams.

In your particular environment, insure that those around you are given the trust they need to succeed, and if you are in the position that someone entrusts you, make the most of it.  Insure you give back what you receive, and share that power as well, and create opportunities for others, and work together to make each other stronger.  Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.  That’s what synergy is all about.  Given the right amount of trust and taking responsibility for our actions (or our failures), we can grow and we can achieve excellence.


  • The most visionary Fire Chief we have had during my my career, the one who made the most positive changes and truly had a plan was also the most hated and was ran out of the district on a rail.

    We caught him lying to us and he could not be trusted. Too bad.

  • Nothing more defines character than integrity.

  • Fire Student says:

    What a great topic. So what happens when the wrong person gets in the door, and attaches themselves to someone who is trusted and creates distrust admist everyone else. How do you deal with that? How do you know when you can really trust someone? I personally have been the victim like many others of people who come in and say all the right things, and do all the right things but are stabbing you in the back.

    • truck6alpha says:

      Fire Student-

      Thanks for commenting. You know, I get a few e-mails from people with pretty similar situations and I try to put a little thought into any kind of advice I can provide. Unfortunately, there are people like that out there and unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to deal with them. Personally, when this has happened to me in the past, I found that in one case I outlasted that person and persevered. In another case, I figured out how to work with that person and simply never allowed him to get in a position where I depended on him for anything. In another situation, I left that organization and moved on. It’s really going to depend on where you are in your life: can you live with that person for a while, can you exist with them, or do we need to cut our losses and leave?

      Strategically, I would encourage you to understand that first, in order for someone to stab you in the back, you have to provide the back. I’d encourage you to be candid with the person and explain your position and why you are unhappy with their lack of loyalty to the personnel and the organization, but if you are uncomfortable with that (which happens when you have someone who will lash out or go after your job), I’d suggest avoiding the person as much as possible and don’t let them have an opportunity to break one off on you.

      I’ll have to think about it a little, and if I have some more insight on it, I’ll comment back.


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