Can Trust Be Earned If It Is not Given?

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We all understand that trust is essential to the development and continuity of personal relations. But for some reason, many tend to discount the need for trust in business relationships. This is especially true for those in a position of authority or leadership; and that’s a big mistake. While it is true that trust is not needed for others to follow your orders, trust is indispensable if you want them to follow your lead.

When you get down to it, it is the leader’s responsibility to give the followers reasons to follow. And at the very top of that list you will find trust. When trust permeates the relationship between a leader and follower, anything becomes possible.  If trust is unfilled or violated, nothing is possible.

Authority gives managers the right to command, but it is trust that gives one the power to lead. The trusted leader is given license to take actions, such as challenging the status quo and bringing about change, which those who lack the trust of followers are constrained from doing.  When a leader has the trust of followers it gives them the power to coalesce the group into a force that will willingly work to achieve the leader’s objectives and vision.

There are a couple of things to remember when it comes to building and retaining the trust of followers in business. The first is that trust is earned over time not overnight. Trust – or lack thereof – emerges from a consistent long-term pattern of actions. And while it takes time to establish trust, it can be lost in no time. The second point to understand is that trust must be reciprocal. The leader should not expect the trust of others without showing the same in return. In fact, the best way for a leader to earn the trust of followers is to show more trust in the followers than they expect to receive in return.

The concept of trust in business relationships is simple: Trust occurs when followers have confidence that the leader will be consistent, transparent, honest, open and most important of all, that the leader is just as concerned about the best interests of the followers as they are in their own.

Trust follows when the leader shows belief in and commitment to a few simple steps. These include:

  • Acting in parallel with all members of the organization. Trusted leaders operate on the basis that no individual or group benefits at the expense of others.
  • Treating all followers equitably in terms of accountability, recognition and reward.
  • Exhibiting respect for followers by fully communicating plans and actions while being open to input and ideas from all.
  • Displaying an unequivocal standard of ethics and integrity that followers can rely on. If followers observe the leader being dishonest with others, how can they trust the leader to be honest with them?
  • Set a standard of consistency in performance so that followers can act on the basis of trusting that the leader will be the same tomorrow as they were yesterday and are today.

The good news is that followers – almost above all else – want to put their trust in the leader. No person wants to be in an environment in which they can’t trust their boss or leader. Because of this, most followers will initially give the leader the benefit of doubt when it comes to trust. This means that when it comes to building trust, it is fully within the power of the leader to do so. Failure to do so is a failure of leadership, and that will result in a failed leader.   

Any leader who hopes to be successful can take a wide variety of actions to achieve that objective, but one thing they should never forget is that ultimately nothing is possible unless those they seek to lead have a reason to and in fact do trust that leader.

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One response to “Can Trust Be Earned If It Is not Given?

  1. I never had more fun than when you led us on our crusade! You are truly the embodiment of what you preach! Thanks for the ride!

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