Any Last Samurai Left? The Death of Trust in Institutions

20 03 2010

In book The Code of the Executive, I found honor and integrity essential leadership qualities of the Samurai. I assumed many of our leaders today still aspired to these values. Imagine my shock when Christopher Hayes (an editor of the Nation) proved me wrong in his article.

“nearly every pillar institution in American society — whether it’s General Motors, Congress, Wall Street, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church or the mainstream media — has revealed itself to be corrupt, incompetent or both . . . after a cascade of scandals and catastrophes, that implicit social contract lies in ruins, replaced by mass skepticism, contempt and disillusionment.

For more than 35 years, Gallup has polled Americans about levels of trust in their institutions —Banks were trusted by just 32% of the populace . . . And Congress was the least trusted institution of all, with only 12% of Americans expressing confidence in it. The mistrust of élites extends to élites themselves. Every year, public-relations guru Richard Edelman conducts a “trust barometer” across 22 countries, in which he surveys only highly educated, high-earning, media-attentive people. In the U.S., these people show extremely low levels of trust in government and business alike. Particularly distrusted are the superman CEOs of yore. “Chief-executive trust has just been mired in the mid- to low 20s,” says Edelman. “It started off with Enron and culminates in Citi.”

But all my clients are CEOs. And almost all I found to be honorable and exhibit integrity. Several deserve not to be trusted, and are no longer clients, but for many their issues don’t resemble the catastrophes above.  Could the death of trust occur only when the size of companies approach “institutional” levels? Is there a limit to size? Perhaps the research of companies like W. L. Gore or of prehistoric tribes limiting their groups to 200-300 makes sense. Is this a biological indicator? I’m keeping my eyes open for new insights. Perhaps we can save Samurai after all.

Read more:,28804,1971133_1971110_1971117-1,00.html#ixzz0ilC6bltq




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