Leadership trust comes down to one simple rule, despite how complicated we make it.
Leadership Trust - Complicated Version
I’ve facilitated, and participated in, numerous conversations where people attempt to define trust and how to build it. We slice, dice and mince. Then we re-assemble the pieces into an overly complicated jig saw puzzle.
David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge, (there are a plethora of books on leadership trust) lists 8 pillars of leadership trust and the top 10 inhibitors.
Leadership Trust - Boiled Down Version
While I don’t disagree with Horsager’s list, I think we can boil leadership trust down to one simple rule. You build trust by keeping people’s best interests in your mind and heart. Then you act according to those interests, whenever possible. It’s often possible.
You keep your commitments, You act with character. You’re compassionate. If you keep others’ interests in mind, you’ll hit 7 of the 8 items. The 8th is competency. Let’s assume you’re in the role because you’re competent. If not, act on the best interest of employees and find a role where your competency shines.
As a leader you may not always act on a particular person’s best interests, because you have many persons to consider. Sometimes when you act on the best interest of the whole, the greater good, some individuals experience a negative impact. But even in these cases, you can show you care about the person’s’ best interests by telling them you tried and explain why you couldn’t come through. Then act on their best interests again by mitigating negative consequences that fall to them.
Layoffs are a great example. I don’t know a single leader who wants to lay people off. Most leaders try to avoid it. But when they can’t, they deliver the news in ways that show they care. They offer resources and personal assistance. They use their network to help employees land on their feet. They check in. They’re empathetic. Empathy doesn’t change the painful outcome, but it softens the ache in someone’s heart.
If you don’t take my word on how to build trust, you might consider the Dalai Lama’s words.
“If you really feel a sense of concern for the well-being of others, then trust will come.”