“He got elected as our leader, and by virtue of his position; he will be overseeing the finances. I don’t think I’m comfortable with that, we should saddle someone else with the responsibility of monitoring how he deals with our finances.”
When people utter such statements as the one quoted above, it shows emphatically the lack of trust in a leader. Followers tend to make such statements when a leader has questionable character. Trust is a responsibility; it should be earned and not demanded. Followers don’t trust their leaders because it is demanded of them. They trust only when it is earned.
Trust is a fundamental ingredient of any leadership. The dictionary defines trust as a certainty on something or someone based on experience. It refers to the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others. Trust also refers to something held by one party for the benefits of another. Therefore without trust it is difficult for leadership to work, whether in social or in business circles.
Literally, trust is putting confidence in someone, that the person will be honest with you at all times. Before followers can put their trust in someone who has been elected or plays a leader’s role in their lives, they relate to how he has handled his past positions. There are two reasons people don’t trust; it could be either because they know much about the leader’s past or because they have no track record of their leader.
Experience is a major consideration in deciding who to trust. And it is not earned in a day. It is necessary that we talk about experience because we are all products of our environment. Most people fall prey to leaders who talk them into trusting them. And at the end, they get disappointed. How do you avoid these pitfalls and make your followers develop trust in you? Here are some practical steps:
1. Start with yourself
This is very important. Self evaluation and understanding is very necessary. People fail in leadership because they refuse to tell themselves the truth. You can only tell yourself the truth when you have proper self evaluation. You should ask yourself, “Can I be trusted?” Once you are able to answer that question, then you have taken the first step in the right direction.
2. Learn to speak straight
In any conversation, learn to be straight and clear. Don’t always make your followers infer something different from what you are saying. For instance, a wife asks her husband “Where were you yesterday afternoon?” and the husband responded by saying “I left the office with Adanma who kept me all day.” If the wife had doubts about her husband’s faithfulness to her, then such answer would leave her mind running through other possibilities. A clear answer like “I was with Adanma and other staff members in a board meeting all day” would be more precise and accurate. As a leader what you say really matters to your followers because as I pointed out earlier, trust is a responsibility that demands accountability.
3. Create an avenue for communication
Creating room for open communication helps in leadership. When people are boxed up with issues, an open communication helps in clearing it up. They might be misinformed; it is up to the leader to clarify things by allowing open communication. For instance, someone who is in charge of the finance of a group was given a new car by his friend. And in a situation where such person can ordinarily not afford such a car by virtue of what he does for a living, it is up to him to inform his followers on how he got the car. If he doesn’t do such, they would believe that he had used the funds under his care to buy the car. A leader should allow room to be questioned and held accountable by his followers. If such is missing trust becomes elusive.
4. Don’t keep secrets
Any leader who keeps away vital information useful that might be useful to his followers would eventually affect the level of trust his followers have in him. Information relevant to the followers should be relayed to them at the appropriate time. For instance, updates on finance, information pertaining to project execution amongst others should be relayed to the team at the right time. The fact is that trustworthy people talk about everything that matters. They only hoard information that will hurt their followers.
5. Demonstrate honesty
A leader should be someone who is not disposed to cheating or any form of mischief. Your words should be your bond; you should be worthy of being depended on. Your followers should be able to go to bed knowing that you are keeping charge over what concerns them. The challenge with honesty is that once the leader proves dishonest at any time, his character becomes questionable. And that ignites doubts in the minds of his followers. Ensure that you are known for being honest at all times as that is what people will recall when your name is mentioned.
6. Resolve issues quickly
When issues arise, it is better that they are resolved quickly. It is easy to be handle issues and maintain trust at the early stage.
In examining the issue of trust in leadership, the words of Edward R. Murrow ring true: “To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.”