Does Trust Really Matter?

I was asked by a friend of mine, someone recently promoted to a leadership position, just how much trust mattered in a leadership role.

For those of you who read this blog often my answer may surprise you.

I said it depends. I believe that’s true. 

It depends on whether you merely want to occupy a leadership position or if you really want to lead. 

You can manage your way through a leadership position and keep the organizational ship afloat. You can keep the organization together and depending on what your competition does, you may even slowly grow it.

If however, your goal is to actually lead, to make a difference in the lives of your people and truly grow and strengthen your organization, then you must lead. If you want to lead then trust is absolutely vital. Absent trust, there simply is no leadership. 

Here’s why.

To grow any type of organization you must grow it’s people. Better computers, a better process, and better systems will all help you sustain a business. If you want to grow it you’ll need better people. People get better when a leader helps them get better.

A leader can’t help their people until their people trust them enough to try new things.

Let me give you an example. I once worked for a guy who on his first day said he would much prefer that his people make a wrong decision rather than no decision at all. He promised that he wouldn’t be upset with a bad decision and he would help his people work through it.

Now I have no way of knowing if he actually meant that when he said it but the first person who made a bad decision was just hammered by this guy. No one trusted him again. All risk taking stopped, all decision making stopped, all commitment stopped, and nearly all growth stopped along with it. 

This guy was smart, he was well educated and he knew the business inside and out. He also greatly underestimated the importance of trust and it’s role in earning the commitment of his people. Despite his education, his experience, and his knowledge of the business he failed in his leadership role. The lack of trust, as much as any other single thing, did him in.

Here is an absolute leadership fact: if your people can’t trust you then your people can’t follow you. 

If they can’t follow you they can’t commit to you. If you don’t have their commitment then your influence with them will be great reduced. With reduced influence comes a reduced ability to lead.

Trust is the foundation of leadership. You can build your leadership with all the proper skills, tools and techniques but without a foundation of trust, your leadership will fail.

So, what do you think, does trust really matter to a leader? 

11 thoughts on “Does Trust Really Matter?

  1. YES! It matters.

    I’ve been a member of the team and I’ve held leadership positions. Both in the military and in civilian sectors. In both environments, if the leader was disrespectful and could not be trusted, it made it difficult for many.

    For the few leaders I had that were trustworthy?

    Many of us have gone to hell and back for those we knew had our best interests at heart. It changes everything. We knew they cared about us just as much as they cared about themselves.

    When you know you can trust your leader, they don’t have to be ‘perfect’. Because we knew that if the trustworthy leader messes up, they simply own it and we carry on. The end.

    Trust is the glue that binds the team together. It’s the oil that keeps the hinges squeaky free and moving easily and freely.

    A team filled with trust that extends from leader to team and back to the leader can accomplish so much more then environments without it. A leader who doesn’t understand the importance of trust may as well shoot his/her own foot off. They cripple the entire team/org/company when they can’t be trusted.

    We’re seeing this big time in our government right now.

    1. Ah yes, the government…. trust is a thing of days gone by. I hadn’t thought of it but that is the PERFECT example of what happens without trust. Throw in a little greed, some huge egos and presto, you have the US a Congress and the White House.

      Perfect example Samantha, thanks for making this a better post!

  2. I have been toying with the idea of toxic leaders as a typography as related to the typologies that exist in conflict driven environments. My thinking is that the environment as well as intrinsic models of motivation (nature vs. nurture) account for examples of failed leadership. As part of the discourse, an absence of trust cripples any effort to engage team members in an organization. Ruthless behaviors and an absence of emotional intelligence fall behind the need to secure profits.

    1. Wonderful comment. It’s a fact that the need for profits drives many decisions which in the end make it much harder to be profitable. Not caring about your people is the single most expensive decision that you can make.

  3. Simply excelent !! We are at the time for be authentic and trust or we must redirect to failed. Thanks Steve. @ Counscy.

  4. Trust matters with leaders, followers, peers, friends, family, etc. Everyone.

    Once you’ve lost trust, it takes a long time to gain it back.

    If you’ve lost trust, you won’t be taken seriously. You’ll become transparent. People will discount what you say.

    1. Absolutely spot on Steve. So many people in leadership positions think a “little lie” “here and there” doesn’t matter because they are mostly truthful.

      But all dishonesty casts doubt on the truth. When you can’t be trusted you can’t be followed either.

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