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Trust Leaders One Day and Not Trust Leaders the Next – Story

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Trust leaders – Building trust

How do people trust leaders?

Trust is a fragile thing for a leader. People can trust leaders one day and completely  lose trust the next. Trust is foundational to leadership. Without trust leaders have a  difficult time getting people to follow.

Trusting leaders requires four ingredients: integrity (honesty), sincerity (genuine), ability (skills) and consistency in results (execution). Take any of these four out of the equation and trusting leaders becomes an issue. Each takes personal commitment and sometimes sacrifice.

A Story about Trust

Last week our small town high school basketball team was able to play in the semifinals of the state championship in front of 5,000+ students and fans.

Word spread quickly before the game that our star point guard would not be playing due to a violation of team rules – he slept in and missed a good portion of first period on the day of the game. This was not a state or school rule, but a team rule. Many coaches would have justified it and bent the rules to let their star play, but not this coach.

As a fan it was difficult to watch this player on the bench in street clothes, and I wondered how this would affect the game, the team and this player/student. Well, we lost the game in overtime and the team we lost to ended up winning the state championship. There is no doubt in my mind that this player would have made a difference in the outcome of the game had he been allowed to play. However, had he been allowed to play there would have been no doubt in my mind the impact it would have made on players for years to come.

What this coach did required courage. Had he bent the rules, players would have lost trust and this coach would have lost respect. He will be a much more effective and trusted leader in years to come because of his choice to stick to what he said he would do.

It is easier to trust leaders that…

It is easier to trust leaders that do what they say they will do, than those that don’t. It is a matter of integrity. Whether it is a reward a leader has promised to her team that she didn’t deliver on. Or a promise a leader made to an employee, but didn’t keep. Doing what a leader said he or she would do is fundamental to building trust. Does it sometimes require great courage to follow through? It certainly did in the case of our coach, but the impact of his follow through will be longer lasting than any win or loss.

I believe that each of us were taught something about integrity that day that neither the fans, players or star point guard will never forget.

Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do. ~Don Galer

How has integrity shaped your trust of leaders in your life? Do you have a story?

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Leave a Comment

  • Ron Hayes March 25, 2012, 5:52 pm

    I like your story about the coach as well. How easy it would have been to make the decision to let the star play and few, if any, would have complained. Good for him for making a long-term decision. I like to think integrity goes even a step further than doing what you say; to me it is doing what you say even when nobody else is watching. A leader who does this will not only be true to others but true to herself/himself.

  • Ryan Curtis March 25, 2012, 5:52 pm

    Good post Mike. It does take courage to be consistent and follow through with decisions, like you illustrated in the coaching example. Leaders have a great burden with their choices, because it affects more than just themselves and the other person. I think it’s a lot easier to make the choices ahead of time so that you don’t have to decide in the moment. The moment can cloud judgement.


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