Building Trust Part 2: Giving leaders latitude


In part 1 of my reflections on trust, I shared my hope in the huge opportunity – borne out by the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer – for businesses to take the lead in restoring public trust. This opportunity emerges from the hope that people are choosing to place in their employers, so it is tangible and achievable. But it is also fragile. It depends upon cultivating trusting relationships throughout an organisation.

Do we give our leaders the latitude they need to build trust?

This is a tricky time to be attempting to restore trust. The global volatility and economic uncertainty undermining our social and political infrastructures are also putting businesses to the test, sharpening the urgency to deliver results. This can place leaders under huge pressure to micromanage their teams’ activities. Ongoing pacesetting can erode trust and goodwill, leading to a cycle of frustration as low engagement inhibits results.

Trust overcomes the dysfunctions that typically afflict teams. It frees employees to engage in the healthy conflict that validates opportunities. This enables them to commit to their actions, hold each other to account and generate solid outcomes.

Building trust liberates better results. 

Trust and respect are cultivated through the behaviours and intentions we show each other. Leaders shoulder a unique responsibility because what they do and say carries extra weight. Seen as examples of what the organisation really values, their behaviours are noted and adopted by others. So, for leaders to honour this grave responsibility, they need the latitude to inspire performance within a context of trust.

How do leaders build the belief in trust?

There are many models that spotlight trust-building qualities. I use one that resonates well with the leaders I coach, because it encourages them to revisit and rebuild each quality as their role, team or context changes:

Competency: the skills, knowledge and experience needed to lead.  Maintaining competency demands the willingness to work hard at developing new skills and knowledge as you transition into new leadership roles.

Consistency: leading well, over time, as your role, your team and your situation changes. At the heart of trust, and crucial in turbulent contexts, consistency honours the expectations between a leader and their team members.

Character: acting with integrity and doing the right thing. Often hard to define, but easy to sense, team members spot character in those leaders who do what they say they’ll do.

Compassion: doing the right thing because you care. Leaders with compassion don’t just listen with empathy, they make decisions informed by the care they feel for employees, even when it’s tough to do so.

Invest in a leader, change the world

Trust makes the world go round, and the hope that people are placing in their organisations is heartening. Those that give their leaders the support and development they need to cultivate trust won’t just see better business results. They’ll be at the forefront of a movement that can work to restore public trust.

If you’d like to strengthen your capacity to build trust through your leadership, come along to the one-day, interactive Inspire workshop in London on 18th November. You will explore the mindset, tools and techniques that can build trust, grow your people, inspire high performance and cultivate a vibrant culture. Facilitated together with Hugo Heij, we create the space and trust for you to reflect on the privilege of leading others and become the leader you wish you’d had.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed reading this article, I’d love to hear from you. If you think it can help others restore trust within their organisations, please pass it on. Connect with me on LinkedIn or simply get in touch with me. 

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