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The Biggest Problem We Face …

The Biggest Problem We Face …

Take your pick:

  1. We’re in a long, hard recession, with staggering unemployment numbers.
  2. We’re fighting two wars.
  3. We’re facing down a catastrophe called global warming.
  4. We have the world’s most expensive health care system.

What’s the worst of it all?

Answer:  none of the above.  Our biggest problem is we don’t trust our institutions — primarily our government — to address our problems. Without institutional trust we are, well … screwed.

Now, we can agree there are reasons for mistrust.  Some governmental institutions have let us down, by becoming unresponsive, bloated, out of touch, entrenched, uncooperative, or simply incompetent.  And (although I still believe there are more honest people in our government than dishonest) of course I won’t deny that corruption exists.

But there has also been, for almost my entire lifetime, a deliberate attempt to sow distrust in government in disingenuous and destructive ways.  I so often hear outrageous statements like, “Government can’t do anything right,” or “All government officials care about is building their own kingdom.”  There is something uniquely American about exalting the individual so highly that nothing is worth doing collectively.

Our businesses wouldn’t work if we didn’t see them as collectives

What if this exclusive belief in individualism pervaded our businesses?  What if your employees believed that every collective value, process, commitment, or structure was inherently suspect?  You wouldn’t have a company!  Clearly our businesses wouldn’t work if we didn’t see them as collectives — as people coming together, debating, compromising, and then choosing a direction – together.

Otherwise, you’d have to trust that somehow your employees would come to work, act in their own interests, and magically produce a joint product or service that uses everyone’s contributions efficiently and benefits the organization — not to mention creates a profit to keep it going.

In our businesses and in our society, we really have no choice but to entrust to larger collective structures the things we won’t or can’t do ourselves.  So our biggest problem is our lack of faith in the very idea of the collective institution.  And a nation cannot survive a loss of trust in these institutions any more than your business could.

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

2 thoughts on "The Biggest Problem We Face …"

  1. Judy says:

    JUST what I needed to hear today. Thank you for another thoughtful post.

    1. Steve Motenko says:

      Judy, I’m so glad our posts are making a positive impression on you! Hope you’re doing well and feeling fulfilled …

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