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Gift of trust imparts obligation

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June 25, 2012

By Steve Trosley

Dan was one of the best bosses I ever had. He was selfless and an extraordinary listener. He was not afraid to let you take a risk and he was not uncomfortable taking responsibility when you fell on your face.

I was thinking about Dan the other day when I put a new Kentucky license plate on my pick-up truck. It says, “In God we trust.”


My first day on the job at the North Carolina daily newspaper started with a meeting with Dan, a dapper man who was born just 30 days before me. That’s where the similarities ended — actually ended with the birthday, not the dapper. He was a genteel son of Fort Smith, Ark. His accent was charming and one-syllable words often became multi-syllabic in his frequent soliloquies.


Explaining how he could not get his previous editor to take charge, his eyes became round and his voice rose in pitch. “I told him he needed to demonstrate some leadership,” Dan said. “He said he knew about leadership from his time in Vietnam as a squad leader. Said even great leaders encounter people who will not follow. Said it was clear that I — me, his boss — didn’t have a clue about what it takes to lead journalists, probably the most difficult people to manage who ever walked this planet.


“So that gave me an ideal,” Dan said. “I reckoned I could go over yonder and fetch me a new editor.


“Steve, I’m not sure I understand what goes on in that newsroom and I’m pretty sure it will take you some time to get your arms around it, but I trust you to take care of it for me.”
He gave me his trust — unconditionally. People often talk about making someone earn their trust because trust is such a valuable commodity. In fact, there are probably more of us walking around the planet not trusting than there are trusting.


When my mother heard someone say they knew they could count on someone for something, she would say, “you poor trusting soul.” Trust is hard to come by and when it’s granted, it is a gift that imparts obligation.


I did my best to live up that obligation for the next three years. Only once did I fail — I didn’t edit a columnist who wrote a column that almost derailed one of Dan’s pet revenue projects. I recall the punishment for my failure was seeing how disappointed he was that I let him down. He did not raise his voice but I could see his disappointment and that hurt.
We discussed damage control and moved on. I didn’t have to earn his trust because he never withdrew it.


Our Lord trusted Peter, even after He was denied. Dan unwittingly taught me a lesson from the Gospel that I will never forget.

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