If there’s a single element that can be considered the core of great leadership, it’s trust. Trust fuels everything leaders want for themselves and their teams, from productivity to imagination. And in its absence, it’s nearly impossible for a team to be effective. Maybe that’s why leaders talk about trust constantly—having it, measuring it, earning it.
But “earning” isn’t really the right word. Trust isn’t so much earned as it is built, little by little, day by day. Here are some of the most important blocks to set in place when you’re building trust:
Character is the foundation of trust. Without it, leaders rely on externals like rank and seniority, but they’ll never be successful without the trust and commitment of those they lead. Character means holding high standards and clear, consistent values that you live every day.
Competence alone won’t make others trust you—but a lack of competence is a quick way to make them mistrust you. Competence doesn’t mean you know how to do everything. It means you know what needs to be done, understand how it fits with your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and can make a plan to ensure it happens.
Communication is essential to an environment of trust where leadership can effectively engage employees and deliver results. To be successful, communication needs to flow in both directions with clarity, transparency and timeliness. It takes daily practice over time for a leader and team to get communication right.
Connection begins with mutual respect and loyalty—with leadership that’s not about power and control but adding value to the work of others and helping them grow in every aspect of their lives. Connections build trust and vice versa.
Commitment is the visible expression of trust in creating and caring for a partnership. In leadership, when you make a commitment you create a priority and a level of engagement that goes far beyond a promise.
Common purpose is the final bond that deepens trust with the assurance that everyone is moving and working in the same direction, sharing the same values and aspirations.
LEAD FROM WITHIN: The best leaders build trust, because trust has the most enduring power and the widest influence.
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