Trust is the Foundation of Leadership
When I think of solid ground, I think of integrity and stability. While hiking and exploring, I test the stability and integrity of a bridge before crossing to the other side. There have been times when I didn’t feel the bridge was safe, the downed tree was sufficient, or the ice was thick enough to make the crossing. As a result, I added additional time and distance to my hike looking for a better spot I could trust.
The Law of Solid Ground states that trust is the foundation of leadership.
Consider the cost in time, energy and sometimes money when a team and a coach, an employer and employee, or even a husband and wife don’t trust each other. Instability in a relationship, be it your professional life or personal life, stems from a lack of trust and ultimately compromises the solid ground we all seek to stand on.
In his book The Speed Of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey points out that high trust results in high speed and low cost, whereas low trust equates to low speed and high cost. He cites the case of aviation security in the United States as a perfect example. Prior to 9/11, I remember I could arrive at the airport just a half hour before my flight. My parents or friends could take me right up to the gate and I easily made it on board. There were even times, I admit, when I ran through security and made it to the gate without a second to spare.
Why? Because there was a higher level of of trust in both travelers and in aviation security. Today we are required to arrive at the airport nearly 1.5 hours before our domestic flight in order to serpentine slowly through the maze of long lines, make it through the gauntlet of security, reorganize our backpack, re-tie our shoes and get to the gate on time.
If we are flying international, we must plan to arrive nearly 3 hours before our flight. Certainly the extra security measures have made flying safer, but not without cost. The cost is felt in terms of our precious time and as Covey points out, on our wallet, due to the TSA security fees that get tagged onto every airline ticket.
A perfect example of the speed of trust is the story of my dad purchasing the land to build our first home. I wasn’t even three years old yet, but I often hear how my dad met the contractor on the vacant lot my parents decided to purchase. The two men came up with a verbal agreement and sealed it with a handshake. Six weeks later we moved into our first brand new home.
How was such a big transaction accomplished so quickly and with just a handshake? Because two men of strong character and integrity decided it was enough. Like judging a bridge stable enough to cross, they chose to work with the speed of trust.
John Maxwell points out that character makes trust possible. And trust makes leadership possible. That is the Law of Solid Ground.
Emphasizing the importance of trust and character, General H. Norman Schwartzkopf once stated:
“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”
Without character, trust is difficult to achieve, relationship foundations are unstable, and leaders find themselves alone.
Maxwell wrote: “People will forgive occasional mistakes based on competence, they will give you time to connect, but they won’t trust someone who has slips in character.”
Make developing your character every bit as important each day as improving your skills and increasing your professional knowledge. Constantly strive to exemplify integrity in all your professional and personal relationships. Work daily to connect with those you influence.
As you do, you will be amazed not only at the positive results, but by the speed in which they occur as you work to make trust your foundation of leadership.
What are you currently doing to develop your character?
Look for Law #7, The Law of Respect soon!