Expert Resources, Featured, General, Leadership

Leadership Trust has to be Earned

Don’t assume leadership trust comes automatically with your title.

Carol Yang

Trust is a crucial starting point for any relationship to work. We buy brands we trust. We become friends with people we trust. We follow leaders who we trust. So why is it that as leaders, we take trust for granted?

Without leadership trust, we cannot lead and influence effectively. But many leaders make the mistake of assuming that trust comes automatically with their title. We forget that trust has to be earned.

Unfortunately we currently live in a world where our trust is being severely tested. Every day we’re faced with news regarding individuals, companies and even industries who have violated our trust. So it’s not surprising that trust is becoming a rare commodity.

Research by the OECD shows that trust is deteriorating in many OECD countries with only 43% of citizens trusting their government. At the corporate level, Edelman’s 2016 Trust Barometer research  among 33 countries indicates that nearly one-third of employees don’t trust their employer.

We now have to work harder to earn the trust of our people. And we also need to maintain and nurture that trust over time.

Clarity and consistency are two fundamental cornerstones of building leadership trust. It starts with clarity.

Clarity – Edelman’s research shows that 80% of employees want to better understand their CEO’s personal values. So clearly your team wants to know you as a person. Leaders who are comfortable revealing some personal details about themselves connect better with their teams. When leaders are clear about who they are, what they stand for and what they expect from their teams, they are trusted. If it’s hard to get a good sense of what drives you as a person and a leader, you undermine your power to influence. Ambiguity breeds distrust.

Consistency – You know that walking the talk is crucial. Nothing erodes trust faster than seeing someone say one thing but does another. But walking the talk is only one part of this. Behaving consistently, during both good times and bad, is just as important. Your people need to know that they can count on you, regardless of the pressure you’re under.

Empathy – Be willing to do what you ask of others. It’s easy to direct the troops from the ivory tower. It’s much harder fighting the good fight on the front lines. Credibility comes from knowing your stuff, but when you also have an intimate understanding of what you’re asking from your team, you will gain their trust and respect.

Vulnerability – Lose the false notion that you must have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to show that you’re human. Leaders who are vulnerable admit when they’ve stumbled and stuffed up, and are willing to discuss this openly.  Your vulnerability, even though uncomfortable, will build trust in your leadership.

Humanity – In the same way your team wants to know you as a person, they will appreciate when you make efforts to get to know them. People go to work not just for the money. They want to feel valued. Find the balance in your decisions that show that people matter as much as the bottom-line. This investment in trust will serve you well during hard times when you have to ask for personal sacrifices to deliver bottom-line objectives.

Like ripples on a lake, your team can be positive ambassadors for you. When you have invested the time and effort to earn their trust, they will be powerful advocates to extend your influence and impact throughout the organisation.





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