Trust and Leadership

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of head-shaking as I hear tales of managers gone awry. One friend shared this story: At her company, there was a young project leader who did a great job of quickly establishing rapport with team members and with internal customers. She was well-liked and she delivered results. Any time anyone was assigned to one of her projects, it was welcomed. She kept the projects moving forward; she worked to find solutions when there were hiccups and she made work fun. And as luck would have it, her husband got transferred and they moved out of state. The team was sad to see her go. Weeks later in a large meeting with staff, managers and senior leaders, one of the senior leaders made unflattering remarks about the young leader who left. The team was shocked. Why was this senior leader throwing the young leader under the bus? Was it because she left, so she was an easy scapegoat? The team was furious. What do you think they thought of this senior leader? One, he is a fool for not recognizing good work. Two, he is incredibly disloyal. Three, if her good work was not recognized and celebrated, it’s time to get the resume polished up and start looking for a different organization with better, more loyal, caring leaders. What that foolish senior leader did in one fell swoop was damage trust. Trust seems to be a hot topic in organizations these days. When you think about high trust situations, what do you feel? Upbeat, positive, an ease in working with the team, expansive. And conversely, when you think about a low trust team, what do you feel? Perhaps closed-in, slow, uncomfortable, checked-out. With low trust, everything slows down — communications, decisions, ideas. I know several companies that have been using the material from Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. (This Covey is the son of the 7 Habits Covey.) There is an online assessment to determine your Trust Quotient. And the book contains 13 habits to develop to increase trust at work and at home. In his book, Covey dispels some of the myths about trust: Myth
  • Trust is soft.
  • Trust is built solely on integrity.
  • You either have trust or you don’t.
  • Trusting people is too risky.
  • Trust is hard, real, quantifiable. It affects both speed and cost.
  • Trust is a function of both character and competence.
  • Trust can be both created and destroyed.
  • Not trusting people is a greater risk.
Covey has developed a model of trust with Character being the foundation or the roots of the tree. Character is a function of Integrity and Intent. The branches of the tree make up Competence, which takes into account Capabilities and Results. If we go back to our young leader, we see she hit every one of those four cores of credibility — she acted with integrity; she was clear and purposeful in her good intentions; she had the capabilities to do a good job; and she delivered results. And what of the senior leader? He gets knocked out of the trust equation right away with his lack of integrity and his bad intentions. So, even if he has the capability to get the job done and he gets results, he is still hampered and slowed down by low trust because people now will be suspicious of his integrity and his intent. As we enter the season of gratitude, be thankful for the leaders who develop trust in your organization, the ones who make it a pleasure to come to work. Celebrate good leaders like the young woman in the story and acknowledge the efforts in building a high trust team. Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tags: Business coach, leadership, trust


Susan Combs

Susan Combs, MBA and Professional Certified Coach, works with coaching clients to create fresh starts, enhance their leadership skills and increase their confidence. She is an authorized licensee of the Fit Leader's Program. Susan provides one-on-one coaching, DiSC team-building training and manages corporate mentor programs. She lives in Lansing with her son, Max, and their golden retriever puppy. Visit or for more information.

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