Trust is the baseplate upon which strong relationships, high performing teams, and successful organisations are built. (Lencioni, P. M. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team. Jossey-Bass.)
Leaders play a crucial role in fostering safe and trusting cultures to provide the conditions for robust discussions, high quality problem solving, accountability, commitment and results. But how does one become a trustworthy leader practice?
Here are six core principles to follow*:
Trustworthy leaders have strong moral and ethical principles. Your character reflects your integrity and honesty.
How to demonstrate character:
- Lead by example. Demonstrate ethical behaviour and integrity in all your actions.
- Admit your mistakes and take responsibility for them.
- Promote ethical behaviour within your team and organisation.
- Call out behaviour that is out of alignment with your values and those of the organisation.
Empathy and compassion are crucial for building trust. Leaders who genuinely care about their team members create a more trusting and supportive environment.
How to show care:
- Be approachable and show interest in your team’s personal and professional lives.
- Build authentic, human-centred relationships with your team members.
- Offer support and assistance when team members face challenges.
- Recognise and appreciate your team’s efforts and achievements.
- Avoid being transactional.
Competence is a key pillar of trust. As a successful leader you must be skilled and knowledgeable in your field. Your team needs to believe that you can make informed decisions and guide them to success. As a competent leader you continuously seek self-improvement through education, training, and staying up to date with industry trends but you don’t need to know everything. You also need to be vulnerable and willing to learn and adapt as circumstances change.
How to demonstrate competence:
- Be generous with your knowledge and expertise and share openly with your team.
- Participate in and encourage others within your team to engage with ongoing learning and development within your organisation.
- Make well-informed decisions and acknowledge when you don’t have all the answers.
Consistency is key to building trust over time. Your actions, decisions, and behaviours should align with your words and values. Trustworthy leaders are predictable in their reliability and maintain a steady passage even in turbulent times.
How to demonstrate consistency:
- Keep your promises and meet your commitments.
- Treat all team members equally and fairly.
- Show up consistently, both in your presence and actions.
- Manage your emotional state, particularly during difficult times.
Credible leaders understand what others expect of them and work hard to fulfil these expectations. They understand how their actions affect others and seek out opportunities to grow.
How to demonstrate credibility:
- Set clear goals and objectives for your team and hold yourself accountable for achieving them.
- Ask your team what they expect from you.
- Show your dedication by putting in the effort and time required for success.
- Inspire commitment and motivation in your team through your own enthusiasm.
- Admit shortfalls and mistakes without creating a culture of blame.
- Seek feedback/feedforward for continuous improvement.
Effective communication is vital for trust. Leaders must be transparent, honest, and open in their interactions. Clear and open communication fosters trust by reducing uncertainty and misunderstanding.
How to demonstrate good communication:
- Listen actively and carefully to your team’s concerns, ideas, and feedback.
- Communicate with transparency, sharing information even when it’s difficult.
- Encourage open and respectful dialogue within your team.
To be a trustworthy leader, it’s essential to embody all six Cs consistently. Trust is not something that can be built overnight, but it can be destroyed quickly. Building trust takes time, effort, and a commitment to these core principles. When your team trusts you, they are more likely to be engaged, productive, and loyal, ultimately contributing to the overall success of your organisation. Trust is the currency of leadership, and by mastering the 6 C’s, you can become a leader worth following.
* Sources: Adapted from the Social Change Model of Leadership and work by the Center for Management & Organisation Effectiveness