Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
September 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor

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Three Keys To Trust

Much has been written about the importance of trust to effective leadership and rightly so, it is likely the single most important factor. When followers do not trust leaders they are wary, cautious, uncertain. Moments of broken trust always elicit feelings of disappointment and often anger. They can put followers in an oppositional relationship with the leader. These are not the feelings that lead to dedicated high performing teams. Trust is the glue that binds leaders and followers together.

When followers trust leaders they work more creatively and they demonstrate much more initiative. Initiative and creativity (doing something without being told to do it, or doing something entirely new) naturally entails risk, and people don't take risks when they don't trust the leader. Instead, they default do doing just what they are told to do and nothing more. So if you want creativity and initiative you must earn and maintain trust.

So how do the most effective leaders build and maintain trust?

Like so much of leadership, trust starts with character. A selfish or uncaring leader will not be able to apply the right tactics and earn trust. Followers easily discern where the leader's heart is. They don't trust leaders whose hearts are not in the right place. There is no faking it when it comes to character.

When leader's hearts are in the right place, when they approach each day as an opportunity to serve the team and it's mission, they do not hurt people and this raises an important relational question: Will he or she hurt me? When a poor leader intimidates or embarrasses a follower it hurts and trust is broken. The most effective leaders build and maintain trust by taking care not to hurt those they lead. Finally, truth is essential to trust. When a leader is caught in even one deception, trust is broken. Leaders deceive followers for both dishonourable and honourable reasons. At times the truth is hard for followers to hear and leaders deceive in an effort to protect followers or to shield themselves from being the bearer of bad news. This is doing the wrong thing for the right reason most of the time but it's all deception to followers. Truth can never be contingent on convenience. The most effective leaders tell the truth - all the time. They are sensitive in the way they tell it, taking care to help followers see why a difficult decision is necessary and acknowledging the hardship it entails.

A final thought: Trust is fragile. Some people enter a new relationship more predisposed to trust, others are more wary, especially when they've been burned. In all cases trust takes time. You must demonstrate consistently that you won't hurt people and you won't deceive people to earn it. One slip and the trust you've been trying to build, like fine crystal, is shattered and on the floor. While broken trust can be repaired, (a mea culpa is always the first step), it can take a very long time. Multiple breaks are irrecoverable. Much easier to treat trust as the valuable asset it is and do all you can to build and protect it. The reward is always a dedicated, creative team that takes the kind of initiative that other lesser leaders never receive.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was the most significant broken trust you experienced? What gave rise to it and how did it affect the way you felt about that leader?
  2. Think about a leader you took some risk and initiative for, how would you describe that individual?

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
September 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor


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