A great leader must be able to inspire trust. Trust is the building block of almost everything in modern civilisation – businesses, public institutions, banking, marriage. Trust propels the world’s development.
How do we inspire trust?
First, we must treat everyone fairly. There should be no favouritism or biases. A word of caution though – Some confuse discretion with preferential treatment. For example, a staff who exhibits constant discipline issues may warrant scrutiny, but one who is trusted to do things well may not. That said, a leader must be sensitive and transparent in his management style to avoid speculations. Being percieved to be fair is as important as being fair. That is why in the legal world, contempt of court is taken seriously. Once the perception that the justice system is unfair pertuatuates, even when it is not, system starts to break down.
Secondly, a leader should not politicise environment to achieve his means. Some does this by creating tension between subgroups; after all, it is easier to manage when people are divided. Competition should be healthy, not toxic. Another way of politicising environment is to “play both sides”. For instance, telling management that the staff is a poor performer, then telling the poor performer that he is doing great and management is to blame for not recognising him. Credibility is something that you can only lose once. And once you lose it, people will doubt your character for a very long time. In today’s hyperconnected world, it is not difficult for information to be divulged. An unsecured computer, an unlocked phone, forwarding of emails and text messages can be done easily. A dog that fetches, carries.
Third – A leader must exercise discretion in divulging information. For instance, one may share certain information in confidence to you. However, to aid your own personal agenda, you divulge this to others or expose the person. Including others into an email threat that is meant to be private without first informing the sender, or forwarding it without checking in first may demonstrate a lack of sensitivity and cause mistrust. That said, there are times which information will have to be shared. For instance, when an allegation is made or when there is duty to report upwards. In this case, the person should be made known beforehand. While it can still be unpleasant, at least, one is being open and transparent.
Perhaps I would add a fourth – Do what you said and say what you do. Or only say things that you truly mean. Closely related to this are values like integrity, honour, abiding by a code of conduct. People must be confident that you are dependable, reliable, consistent and trustworthy.
To conclude, as I write this article, I also reflected on myself. Have there been times which I failed to inspire trust? Are there times which I am inconsistent with my words and action or caused misunderstanding because I was unclear? Have I politicise environment to shift things towards where I want? It is a constant struggle. Sometimes, it is human nature to behave in a certain way. While we may fail from time to time, it starts first with recognising the importance of being trustworthy, authentic, credible and upright, then aligning ourselves, catching ourselves in the act and correcting our behaviour.
Photo Caption: Spending some time to reflect before picking my son up.