Forgotten Trust

If your people can’t trust you then they can’t follow you either. Notice I didn’t say “won’t” follow you, I said “can’t.”

They can’t because to truly follow a leader there must be an emotional commitment. Subconsciously we humans can’t make ourselves commit to a person we don’t trust. There will always be a level of skepticism that acts as a barrier to true commitment.

Through the years I’ve seen many very good leaders work hard to earn the trust of their people. Despite their efforts they often fail to earn that trust because they forget one vital step in earning the trust of others.

They forget that if they want their people to trust them they must first trust their people. Just like it’s really hard to like someone who doesn’t like you it is very hard to trust someone who doesn’t trust you. (If you’re someone who claims to be a leader then don’t you dare say that you’ll trust your people when they first trust you…you’re the leader, not them.)

Leaders can tell their people they trust them but if their actions, policies, procedures, and programs don’t demonstrate that trust their people will know the truth. 

They are not actually trusted. 

Authentic Servant Leaders demonstrate trust by allowing their people to make decisions and by allowing them to take on a certain level of well thought out and considered risk. Trust is also demonstrated by applying accountability practices in a positive fashion, not a punitive fashion. 

The difference between positive and punitive accountability can be tough to define but your team members most certainly can feel the difference. When an Authentic Servant Leader holds their people to a high standard of performance their people excel. When someone who is seen as a mere boss tries to hold their people accountable their people most often rebel.  

The difference is that an Authentic Servant Leader has a history of showing they care and at best a boss merely says they care. It’s all in the words and tone that you use to hold your people accountable. 

If you want your people to truly follow you then you must work everyday to earn their trust and you must do more than say you trust them, you must show it. 

One more thought …. it is not your people’s responsibility to figure out whether or not you trust them. It is your responsibility as a leader to make that fact so crystal clear that it is completely obvious to all who would follow.

If you have the audacity to call yourself a leader then step up and lead, be a person they will want to follow and a person they are able to follow. 

Be a person they can trust by never forgetting to demonstrate that you trust them first.

4 thoughts on “Forgotten Trust

  1. The law of reciprocity holds to some degree. If you trust others they are more likely to trust you. This bond will help foster a strong relationship. However, just because someone trusts trusts you doesn’t mean they will follow you wholeheartedly. They may only follow you until you are tested. At this point your other skills will have to take over.

  2. Nice post Steve. So much to be written. When we allow people to make decisions, we also have to give them all the facts, values, and information we have. I’ve seen many people in positions of authority fake-like they are allowing decisions, but when the other person fails, they use the mistake as “the reason” why the person in authority still has to do everything. You speak about positive and punitive accountability. The leader must be objectively accountable and give their people every chance to succeed. The failure of a follower can many times be attributed to the leader.

    Thanks for the post. Mike…

    • Great point Mike, in an upcoming post I’ll write about the two possibilities of leadership. It will say when your people fail there are two possibilities… YOU as the leader either hired someone with the wrong skills for the job or YOU did not give them to tools and guidance they needed to succeed.

      Either way it’s the leaders responsibility, if you can’t accept that then perhaps you shouldn’t be leading.

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