Is Trust an Important Characteristic for High Performing Leaders?

We want to work for leaders we can trust explicitly. And when leaders earn our trust, engagement soars, along with productivity and efficiency. That’s a fact proven over and over again.

So what happens when a leader loses the trust of his employees? We may get to see that play out during this season of the TV drama Designated Survivor.

The second episode covers President Tom Kirkman’s first day in office. The day is filled with photo ops, viral videos and racial issues. He’s also dealing with a governor who wants to go rogue. The governor orders his state’s police to round up Muslims after a video goes viral of police beating a young American-Muslim to death. Kirkman orders the governor to have the police stand down.

The standoff ends when Kirkman threatens to charge the governor with obstructing a federal investigation. The governor, clearly cornered, backs down. However, Kirkman’s investigation is nothing but a bluff. He wins by telling a blatant lie, and no one in Kirkman’s inner circle is bothered by it. I know that seems to be the Washington way, but is it right for leaders?

For leaders today, credibility is neither optional nor negotiable. And yet, employee trust and confidence in the competence of leaders is below 50 percent. Credibility is no longer an entitlement; it does not automatically come with a title, a degree or seniority. Instead, leaders must earn credibility through intentionally building it with their employees, boss, colleagues and customers.

Here’s the good news, according to AchieveForum’s research, it is possible to build credibility through building consistency in word and action, competence in the field, commitment in the face of challenge and concern for others.

So while putting his credibility at risk worked in this instance for Kirkman, it’s something leaders should avoid at all costs.


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