Trust and Leadership
“Trust is the foundation of leadership,” wrote John Maxwell in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership1. I have always been excited to write on the topic of trust and how it is related in leading people. I firmly believe that trust is an important element in leadership. And in my experience, I have proven that.
There are 3 facts about trust that I would like to share:
1. Trust is Built Through Relationships
Maxwell said that “Effective leaders know that you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand…You can’t move people into action unless you first move them with emotion. The heart comes before the head”2. And I very much agree with his statement.
The Bible gives us a story that perfectly illustrates how trust is built by a relationship. First Samuel 18-20 highlights the jealousy of King Saul to David and the friendship of David and Jonathan. In verse 1 of chapter 18, we are told of the depth of friendship and loyalty of David and Jonathan to one another. In chapter 18, Saul became jealous of David and began plotting his death. And in chapter 19, Saul attempted to kill him.
Now, I want to say that if there’s one person that David shouldn’t trust (aside from Saul), it would be Jonathan. Why? Because he is Saul’s son. But why did David continue to trust him? I have to say that it is because of his close relationship with Jonathan. Their strong friendship established an unmovable kind of trust to one another.
Now I begin to think, what if David didn’t establish a deep relationship with Jonathan. What would happen to him? Jonathan could’ve betrayed him and David would probably be a dead meat by now.
I ask you this: Have you surrounded yourself with people whom you can trust? With people who will stand by you and for what is right even in the midst of intense pressure? It’s important that leaders surround themselves with “Jonathans”. Trust begins with relationships.
2. Trust is Strengthened by Character
I’m a man who places premium on competence more than on character. This is evident in my voting preferences. I’m after candidates who are competent and experienced but not necessarily without lapses in their attitude and in their track record. If given the chance, I may have voted for presidentiables who are seasoned and skilled, but has problems with anger management or accused of unethical practices.
Now, let’s go to a more personal level. There was a time when I have given more time and effort in developing my leadership skills than in strengthening my character. Over time, I became bossy and overcontrolling when working with my team. I bred “blind spots”. Eventually, some of my close friends corrected me. I received a revelation of my life. I put competence before character, when it should be the other way around.
“People will forgive occasional mistakes based on ability, especially if they can see that you’re still growing as a leader. But they won’t trust someone who has slips in character. In that area, even occasional lapses are lethal. All effective leaders know this truth,” wrote Maxwell3. Character should go first; competence will follow.
People will not follow leaders who has slips in character. So let’s put premium on character more than competence. Trust is strengthened by our character.
3. Trust is Essential for Teamwork
In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni stated that “Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible…In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another”4.
Vulnerability is the keyword here. This means that we need to be open and honest with our weaknesses and mistakes. This is going to be tough since we live in a world of individual advancement and doing so will be detrimental to such progress. But when we show others that we are vulnerable, it proves our willingness to set aside personal agendas and our sincerity for teamwork to happen. Thus, we gain the trust of other people.
2John Maxwell–Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 101.
3John Maxwell–Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 58.