Building Trust in Leadership

By Stephen Garber

Asking what makes a good leader evokes a variety of responses, from the practical to the esoteric. It can be sort of a “coming out” party for emotional intelligence in the workplace. Some people consider leadership to be a set of skills that needs mastery. Others define it as a set of personal characteristics and attributes, with charisma being one.

Research indicates it’s no longer enough for leaders simply to be smart. Meredith Belbin, the developer of the Belbin Team Role theory, found that teams composed of highly intellectual individuals actually do worse in comparison to other types of teams because of each person’s natural desire to prove the merits of their own theories—to show how smart they are. And while charismatic leaders can inspire nations and people to reinvent themselves or corporations to change their fortunes, charisma alone is not the driver. It takes planning, action, accountability and a leadership team that inspires trust.

How you go about achieving results is as important as the results themselves, because when you establish trust, you increase your ability to get results the next time, and the next one after that.

It sounds simple, yet it is truly complex—particularly in today’s world of Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and other constant use of smartphone applications.

Many businesses are under pressure to deliver results with fewer resources. What once was appreciated as a discretionary effort from employees is no longer the exception—it’s the norm.

Without open and trusting relationships up, down and across the business, sustainable success will be a challenge.

Well-managed organizations with enlightened leaders engender the time and commitment to pause and take stock of what is really happening on their teams, in their relationships and in their communications. Leadership at all levels confronts actual behavior. True leaders don’t sign up just for the compliments—they are present and observant, seeing and addressing any erosion of trust and goodwill their behaviors inadvertently create.

How do you get results that inspire trust?

• Entertain the notion that mutual trust is possible and essential, even in today’s climate.

Decide trust is not about everyone “making nice” with each other, but rather about getting the truth on the table, which many leaders never hear until it is too late.

• Collectively identify and understand what causes trust to be built and broken—and assess how you are doing at those actions.

• Look at your own part in building and breaking trust alongside fellow team members who must do the same.

Share that knowledge with each other in an open and vulnerable dialogue.

• Make and hold yourselves accountable for the trust-building actions.

• Make trust a core value in your organization at all levels.

Is this beyond our reach? No, it is not. But what it asks of us is that we bring both our hearts and our minds to our business, more than ever before. If we are to lead in a sustainable way from a human and economic perspective, we must build trust in ourselves, each other and our organizations.

How are you doing at building trust?♦

Stephen Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or sgarber@thirdlevel.com.

Stephen Garber
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