Leaders of several countries have recently been deposed and others are on the chopping block because they lost the trust of their citizens. They didn’t notice that - in Nature - species go to extraordinary lengths to establish trust among members.

The organizational structure of some species - like ants or termites - seems to allow them to function like a single organism while animals who live in smaller groups or families units must practice bonding techniques.

Spending their lives in an underground kingdom, mole rats have a social organization that is unparalleled in mammals. A queen will rule a tribe of 100 or more and while she'll have two or three mates, no other males will reproduce. They have the potential but the queen secretes chemical signals that tell them not to. And they believe her. She also signals them on how to adjust and fill a required job description: The smaller mole rats will gather food while the larger ones will dig tunnels or defend the tribe against snakes... or rats from other clans.

In this dark world, you'll need the queen's scent signal to be recognized as a member who can be trusted; and if you don't have it, you must be an enemy.

Higher order animals - like monkeys and apes - spend hours grooming each other to be sure they have the correct identifying scents. When monkeys bond through mutual grooming, they are forming a mutual-aid alliance wherein each is being trusted to come to the other's aid against all-comers. More than keeping free of fleas and other pests, these cleaning rituals are a way of trading pheromones, the chemical messengers that are the basis of every relationship.

The idea of trust is so important to a quality of social life that I'm always amazed when people think it just happens ...automatically. I see so many leaders squander the little faith collaborators give them. Then they’ll grudgingly consider a team-building activity - but only after relationships have soured or broken down until something has to be done.

How do leaders erode the trust we give them? Experts agree they do it in many ways -
but the main ones include:
  • Inconsistent messages;
  • Inconsistent standards;
  • Misplaced benevolence;
  • False feedback;
  • Failure to trust others themselves;
  • Pretending that an obvious flaw does not exist;
  • Treating rumors as if they occur in a vacuum;
  • Consistently under performing.
Every leader should give serious thought to their « trust-worthiness » before expecting a team-member to follow them, their policies or their direction.

What about you? Do the people you rely on trust you? Are you trustworthy?