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The importance of trust in leadership


It’s a simple concept – and an expected component of all of our relationships, both personal and in business. Once broken, though, trust is almost impossible to replicate or repair.

Somehow both logical and emotional, freely given and hard earned, trust is an enigmatic and vital part of every business and workplace culture. When you dig into the psychology and successes of leadership, trust is the foundation on which everything else is built.

There are countless training models which have been tried and tested in coaching and leadership over many decades and, from our experience, we know that the most successful of those highlight just how vital trust is, as a foundation, as a baseline, and as a consequence of our behaviour – and in our leadership.

When trust is in place we can take bold steps and reach for more.

It means that we can express goals and achievements we want the team to aim for, and that the whole team can discuss the successes and failings, even disagree – at times quite strongly – with each other, knowing that everyone has the same end goal; the success of the business.

Trust allows for that honesty, and for growth.

With trust in place, the fears associated with those sometimes complex and daunting conversations that happen in business are significantly reduced – and it’s possible to face even the most challenging of situations, because you have the support of colleagues who are all facing those same challenges together. Trust in, and from, a leadership team who know everyone’s strengths and how to bring them out collaboratively.

That trust means that everyone can work towards the same goals, respecting the input of others in the team, honestly discussing different opinions, and taking braver, more significant steps.

The image below shows the Lencioni model – a pyramid showing the most vital components of success; without a cohesive leadership team, in which every member has the same ethos, same goals and same commitment, your business is far less likely to move forward and grow, or to overcome any unexpected challenges.

The Lencioni Pyramid

The Lencioni Pyramid

As you can see, the first and most important ‘dysfunction’ if a team isn’t working is trust – or rather, the lack of it.

When trust is in place many people are surprised to see that ‘conflict’ comes next; surely conflict is the last thing you want? Shouldn’t the whole team all just get along and agree?

Well – no!

Conflict doesn't necessarily mean a battle – it just means there's disagreement – and people from different backgrounds, with different knowledge and experiences, should have different views and opinions on the important topics - and be comfortable voicing them.

Each person in the team should care enough to have an opinion or an idea for how to move forward – and that passion is what will keep your organisation alive. Voicing differences – aka conflict – shouldn’t be something to fear.

You aren’t in business leadership for an easy ride – you’re there because you’re driven, ambitious and successful – so you should be able to voice your ideas and opinions – and trusted to do so respectfully.

This approach only fails when there’s no trust – because it’s only then that conflict becomes problematic. Without trust, conflict causes tension, pain and antagonism – but when the trust between a team is in place, each member of that team knows that they will be heard, respected, and that their ideas will be considered.

When a member of the team has broken that trust, conflict becomes even more of a challenge. Broken trust leads to suspicion, doubt and anger, until the trust is repaired – and repairing trust is far, far harder than building it was the first time.

Many people also think that trust looks like smiles and agreement – that the whole team always being on the same page matters – and of course it’s nice to agree, but you have to be aware of all the options, and the reasons behind them, before reaching that agreement.

If there’s too little trust, and people feel they can never have their say, bite back any suggestions for fear of rocking the boat, or doubt that their voice will be heard, then there’s a clear and significant dysfunction in the team, which will impact the entire organisation long-term.

For more information on trust, on the model shown above, and on how these leadership traits can be introduced and cemented within your leadership team, just ASK.

Call 01234 757575 or email hello@askeurope.com

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