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The importance of trust in leadership


It’s simple enough – and is an expected component in all business relationships and activities but, once broken, trust is almost impossible to replicate or repair.

Both logical and emotional, freely given and hard earned, everything and, at the same time, the simplest of concepts, trust is an enigmatic and vital part of business and workplace culture – and when you dig into the psychology and successes of leadership, trust is the foundation on which everything else must be 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 the vital importance of trust.

Trust means that we can take bold steps, that we can reach for more. It means that we can express goals and achievements we want the team to aim towards, discuss the successes and failings, even disagree – at times quite strongly – with other members of the team, knowing that everyone has the same overreaching goal; the success of the business.

With trust in place, the fears associated with those complex and daunting conversations are significantly reduced – and it’s possible to face even the most challenging of situations with the support of a team of leaders and employees who are all facing those same challenges together.

Trusting that everyone maintains the same goals and respect for the input of the others allows for an honest discourse, and braver, more significant steps can be taken towards new goals.

The image below shows the Lencioni model – a pyramid of vital components which make a successful team; without a cohesive team on which every member of the leadership group has the same ethos, same goals and same commitment, your business is far less likely to move forward and grow, or to overcome significant challenges which might hit you by surprise.

As you can see, the first and most important ‘dysfunction’ of a team which isn’t working is trust – or rather, the lack of it. When that 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 isn’t a battle – it’s a disagreement – and people from different backgrounds with different knowledge and experiences should have different views and opinions on the important topics. It should matter – and the future of the organisation should matter enough that those differences are voiced. Voicing differences – conflict – shouldn’t be something we fear, or hold back from for an easy ride. You aren’t in business leadership for an easy ride – you’re there because you’re driven, ambitious and successful – so it should be important that you have your say.

The trouble only comes when there’s no trust – because it’s only then that conflict becomes problematic. Without trust conflict causes tension, pain and worry – but when the trust between a team is in place each member of that team knows that they will be heard, respected and their points will be considered – even if they are then dismissed in favour of another direction.

When a member of the team has broken that trust, however, conflict becomes even more of a challenge – because there will be suspicion, doubt and anger behind every debate, every discourse, until the trust is repaired – and repairing trust is far, far harder than building it from the ground up could ever have been.

Many people also think that trust looks like smiles and agreement – that all being on the same page matters – and of course it does, but you have to be aware of all the options and the reasons behind them before reaching that agreement – and if you never have your say, bite back your suggestions for fear of rocking the boat and doubt your voice will be heard, then you don’t truly trust your team.


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


Call 01234 757575 or email hello@askeurope.com