fbpx Skip to main content

We are in the middle of a federal election campaign. The groans are audible from a populace weary of political speak, of questions never answered in a straight or transparent manner.  Once again we are being asked to vote for the person/party we most believe or trust will deliver on the promise.

Earlier this week I answered the phone to discover it was an automated polling survey about, yes you guessed it, the upcoming election. Whilst strongly tempted just to put the phone down because my level of “trust” of these methods is fairly minimal, my curiosity was engaged long enough (the electronic voice did say it would only take a minute of my time) to hear what the questions were. They were not exactly inspiring, but they did ask the question “who do you most trust?”

The trouble was the options to answer were either A or B but no option to say neither!

Trust matters, it matters a lot. It is the backbone of every successful relationship. It takes time, care and effort to build and can be lost in a fraction of a second.

Our leaders have to know how to engage us, to build relationships that make us want to believe and follow. We want to see leaders that are authentic and whom we would trust to get us out of a sticky position if things go wrong. Unlike the captain of the “Costa Concordia” who literally jumped ship to save his own skin rather than ensure the safety of his passengers and crew.

Oxytocin is known as the “love” hormone. When we are in a relationship that matters our oxytocin levels surge. It’s that magical bond between mother and baby. It provides our very social connectedness that has created us as the human race we are today. You can boost your oxytocin level simply with physical touch.

Which might explain why politicians like to be seen holding babies, patting children’s heads and shaking hands with their loyal throng. It is why it is said that doctors have healing hands – we touch our patients when we examine them, to determine the source of their illness. Other practitioners apply the same magic. When we feel lonely or sad, it is the gentle touch of reassurance from an arm around your shoulder or a hug that provides us with that sense of safety and…trust.

Recent research however has also shown that oxytocin has a dark side (in mice at least) as it strengthens bad memories and can increase the sense of fear and anxiety in future stress as well. So don’t place your trust in oxytocin providing you the relationship of your dreams! You can buy phials of oxytocin as a nasal spray online purportedly to boost your chance of forming a successful relationship. May I suggest you rely on your other qualities rather than waste your money.

Trust is essential in life and in the workplace: it determines your success. Without trust there can be no respect or loyalty. Why would anyone bother to listen to what you have to say if you are not perceived as a trustworthy person? We build trust through our behaviour rather than our words, so it is our congruency that matters.

What you say has to match what you do, otherwise your mixed message will be received with uncertainty, (a huge threat to the brain) and what they interpret as the truth will be your behaviour not your words. Leaders have to ensure that every brain they wish to influence feels safe first. This is because our brain responds in one of two ways when it comes to relationships. We either adopt the  “Away” response because we sense this is a potentially dangerous situation or “Towards” because we feel safe and potentially rewarded.

So what do we look for when it comes to trustworthy leaders?

Someone who listens first, and speaks later

Someone who provides clarity around their message

Someone who considers what is best for the common good rather than what makes them look better.

Someone who demonstrates a genuine interest in and relates to those they serve

Someone who accepts criticism with an open mind, willing to learn from, take responsibility for and acknowledge their mistakes.

Someone who is willing to step up and set the example for others to follow

Someone who is willing to ask the hard questions and make those decisions that will best protect and serve the organisation

Someone who is seen to deliver real results

Someone who is consistent, competent, honest and open

Do you know who that someone is?

Is it the person you are working for, in a relationship with…is it you?

Whether you are a leader of an organisation, a manager, a staff member – trust is essential at every level and starts with each and every one of us. Do you think the “Pollies” understand that?



Yomayra F Guzmán, Natalie C Tronson, Vladimir Jovasevic, Keisuke Sato, Anita L Guedea, Hiroaki Mizukami, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Jelena Radulovic. Fear-enhancing effects of septal oxytocin receptors. Nature Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3465


Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

Leave a Reply