Effective leaders don’t have to be liked, but have to be trusted.

Grip on trust

29 November 2020

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Steve Jobs has changed the world profoundly. He truly was a visionary man and his company Apple has become one of the richest in the world. But Mr. Jobs was also a very moody and unpleasant man. He could fire someone after a one-minute elevator ride. Steve Jobs is one of many entrepreneurs who don’t do “empathy” and still were, or are extremely successful.

There is a misconception that empathy in leadership is crucial for a successful business. It certainly is a bonus. It is very welcome when people in leadership or management positions have some level of empathy in their personality, but it is not necessary for a thriving business.

The secret of success of forementioned corporate bullies lies within the one of 3 factors of trust: Behavioural consistency. Specifically, these leaders have concrete goals they want to achieve and they are very clear how to get there. They communicate it rigorously and everything they say they intend to do, they actually do. This makes it very easy for employees to do their job. To follow the leader.

In business the opposite happens more often. Leadership makes a big promise and they do not follow up on it. Or it starts good, but circumstances change and nobody considers to adjust plans, or communicate the changes. This way everybody knows the big goal will not be achieved, but when even leadership doesn’t know or cares, how could anyone else?

I certainly do not advocate that you leave your empathy at the door. This is an illustration to underline the importance of behavioural consistency.

Trust has many different aspects, that’s why many people think that it’s something that just happens to us, that it cannot be influenced. This is not the case. It changes all the time, it differs between people, between topics and circumstances. Understanding what influences trust in what situation can give you a grip on trust in specific relations.

Different elements influence trust, below are 3 factors that are mostly used in trust research.

1. Empathy/character (20%)

Usually, this is the first thing we experience from others. In most situations empathy or having a fitting character opens the door to a relationship. It’s how we communicate. Over time empathy can be replaced by character.

2. Competence/skill (30%)

Do you know what you are talking about? Don’t twist facts or make claims that you cannot uphold.

3. Behaviour/Integrity (50%)

Do what you say, and if circumstances change, communicate consistently. When there is a large space between what people say and what they actually do, it creates unrest, unclarity and distance. We don’t trust people with this kind of behaviour.

Grip on trust

Almost everything we do revolves around relationships. Between a boss and his staff, between companies and customers, between lovers, between doctors and patients, etcetera. The higher the level of trust in a relationship, the more effective, successful and pleasant the relationship-goals will be achieved. Trust works as a lubricant. Everything runs smoother, with less friction. And when relations run smooth everything around it runs a bit smoother. Trust is not something that just happens. You can understand it, control it and steer it in the right direction. With the right insights, training and support, trust can become a stable factor in your personal behaviour, in teams and in organizations. High trust companies are more successful than other companies.

Understanding how trust works and how to grow it in relationships is the secret for a better quality of life.