The Trust Account and Four Ways Leaders Grow It


At the foundation of every relationship is the dynamic of trust. Without it, you don’t have relationship. Trust is the invisible currency of relationship: it is at the heart of what is exchanged between people. We give trust to others and receive it from others. We trust people to accept us, listen to us, value us, support us, and act in ways that are best for us. We also provide the same to others. But, how do leaders build trust?


Think of it this way. A leader holds a joint “account” with every person in the organization; a trust account. Just like a bank account, leaders make deposits into and/or withdrawals from the trust account on an ongoing basis. Deposits include such things as acting competently, showing integrity, giving care and concern, offering self-sacrifice, and providing good communication. Withdrawals might include initiating change, expecting sacrifice and extra work, leading bold initiatives into uncharted waters, correcting errant behavior, or asking people to endure through difficult times rather than give up.


Leaders tend to make withdrawals but not deposits into their trust account with others. As with a bank account, more withdrawals than deposits equal insufficient funds. The trust check bounces. Consequently, when the time comes that a leader needs his or her people to trust and follow with extra time or sacrifice when times get tough, followers don’t.


Smart leaders make ongoing deposits of trust. Why? Well, primarily because it’s the right thing to do. But they also understand that there is an important side benefit. Simply put, when push comes to shove, leaders who have built trust are those who have the ability to lead people when other leaders cannot. People who trust their leaders voluntarily follow them even often when circumstances make it difficult for them to do so. People will say, “I might not see it this way or agree, but I trust this person and I will follow them.”


Trust is earned, not simply given. Leaders build trust in four primary ways:


1. Character- A Trust of Consistency: When leaders act in integrity, they are believable and thus trusted. They keep agreements, behave consistently, act fairly and sacrifice for the sake of others and the organization. They display moral character.


2. Care & Concern- A Trust of Regard for Others: when followers perceive that leaders care for them, listen to them, have concern for them, and genuinely hold their best interests in mind, they trust these leaders.


3. Competence- A Trust of Capability: Leaders who make good decisions and exercise skillfulness are leaders who build credibility. They are seen as dependable because they possess competencies in what they are doing, and those competencies help the organization succeed. Leaders who hold a track record of success enable followers to have confidence in them for the future. Their history of competence builds trust. A history of incompetence makes trust difficult for followers.


4. Communication- A Trust of Authenticity: Sharing information about the organization, sharing information about oneself, telling the truth, admitting mistakes, giving constructive feedback, maintaining confidentiality—these build reciprocal trust, because by communicating to followers, a leader is trusting them.


The above is an excerpt from Mike's book on leadership called Power to Lead. Check it out on Amazon!


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