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.
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?