Trust is the foundation of leadership – John Maxwell’s Sixth Law of Leadership
In an earlier post on the Law of Addition, I mentioned the fact that the media is feasting on stories denigrating the so-called Fat Cats of business. Leaders do add value by serving others, but they cannot hope to keep followers unless there is a bond of trust.
Solid ground is the trust between leader and follower and must be earned. Trust does not exist because of a leader’s position.
In the world of politics, we need look no further than Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, two extremely gifted leaders who were both undermined by issues of trust. Clinton had questions of trust surrounding his personal life; Blair lost the trust of his electorate over questions of his truthfulness over Iraq and the Weopons of Mass Destruction dossier. Once they had broken trust with people, they both found it very hard to influence any longer.
There are three components of trust:
- Competence – do your followers believe you are competent and know what you are doing?
- Connection – how do you relate with your people? Do you act in a trustworthy manner with those people?
- Character – your character enables trust. People will not follow without clarity of communication; consistency of your actions with respect to values and ethics; do you respect those around you? Another element of character is potential – do you look out for potential in others (“I know you can do it”)?
Trust can be compared with a bank account. Each time you make a good leadership decision, you earn a deposit. A bad decision is equivalent to a withdrawal. Eventually, a string of bad decisions will deplete the trust bank account and one day you run out of change. If you have sufficient change in your account, then your followers will forgive occasional errors or mistakes. They will be much less forgiving to someone who has slips in character.
Character makes trust possible. And trust makes leadership possible. This is the Law of Solid Ground.
Character is the key to establishing trust. Work on your character. Be true to yourself and develop your integrity, authenticity and discipline.