Trust – The Currency of Leadership

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Earning the trust of one’s subordinates is not just a soft, nice-to-have asset.  It is hard currency that can make the difference between success and failure.  There are hardly any professions today in which individuals can be successful without the help of team members. To ensure you have enough trust from your subordinates, consider the 20:60:20 strategies and make sure your top 20%
performers fully trust you, and the next 60% adequately respect you.  A good place to start might be to try and honestly answer each of the six-C questions.

Leaders need to ensure that they have the trust of the 20+60% of their followers. By and large, leadership trust is a combination of these six factors:

  1. Commitment

Commitment is the cause or purpose the leader pursues.  It is the vision she has for a better future.  If this vision provides hope and inspiration to people, they willingly give their trust and followership.  On the other hand, if they don’t connect with the leader’s vision at an emotional level, or doubt the commitment of the leader towards the vision, they will find it difficult to trust the leader.  Commitment towards a purpose is the primary driver of leadership trust.  If one is to follow a leader with full commitment, there should be no doubt that the leader is also fully committed to the stated purpose.

  1. Character

Character is the set of values that the leader lives by.  Not only is it important for followers to know that the leader is committed to a worthy purpose, they must also believe that the leader wants to pursue that purpose by playing according to the right set of values.  Imagine two leaders are fighting for a just cause that you strongly believe in.  One is pursuing success through violent means, while the other is using peaceful means.  Which one will you trust more and follow?  The answer will depend on your own set of values.  The goal here is not to differentiate between right and wrong. Rather, it is to highlight the fact that character (deeply held values) plays a huge role in earning trust.

  1. Competence

In today’s increasingly complex world, just having strong people skills is not enough.  To earn trust, a leader must have core competence in her chosen field.  The old school of management says that a general manager need not be a subject matter expert.  In today’s highly complex markets, it has become almost impossible for a rank outsider who does not have sufficient knowledge and expertise about the business to earn the respect of his subordinates.

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  1. Consistency

Consistency is about delivering on your commitments without fail.  If you do what you say, and deliver what you promise, people will trust you. If you don’t, they won’t; simple.  It is hard to trust someone who is inconsistent with their dependability and in today’s increasingly competitive world of business there is very little room for error.  One member’s inconsistency can cost the entire team dearly.

  1. Caring

There are two types of bosses in the world, ones that genuinely care for their people and others that don’t.  If I know that my boss will always take care of my best interests, I will be more willing to give her my very best efforts and energy.  If, on the other hand, I have a boss that is likely to throw me under the bus to save his own skin, I will use a big part of my energy in taking care of myself.

  1. Centricity

Finally, the focus of the boss’ actions and intentions determines his trust worthiness. Some bosses are self-centric and some are other-centric.  Self-centric people care most about themselves, and strive hard to create a better future for themselves.  In the words of Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, such people are Takers i.e. they take more from society than they give.  Their worldview is one of self-preservation: “If I don’t take care of myself and maximize my own gain, no one else will.” Other-centric people are Givers i.e. they give more than they take from society.  Their worldview is one of win-win: “If I take care of others, my interests will be taken care of automatically.”  It is well documented through research that Givers enjoy a much higher level of trust from their subordinates than Takers; and that in the long run, Givers are more successful.

7 Steps to Achieving your Goals

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There are two major categories when it comes to goals and goal setting.

  • The first category is goals we set that we have a 95 percent chance of accomplishing–mostly because we have done it before, so the likelihood is high that we’ll succeed.
  • The second category is goals where there is a 95 percent degree of uncertainty that we’ll accomplish them, and we have never done it before, but we would like to.

There are benefits to both kinds of categories. The human brain is set up to help you achieve goals that you sincerely believe are achievable.

If you want to stretch yourself or your business to new heights, here are my thoughts on goal-setting and goal-getting.


  1. Dream, but be motivated.

It’s OK to dream and have big goals. But if you’re actually going to accomplish them, you have to DO something about them, and that takes motivation. The very first thing you need to achieve a goal is a reason and deep desire to achieve it. The path to achieving goals is fraught with boredom, excuses and difficulty. You will have a lot of opportunities to talk yourself out of the goal. But if you can keep going back to the reason and your desire for the goal,  those will help you stay on track.

2. Break it down into 24-hour bites.
The brain has a built in B.S. monitor that rings out when all you do is set an enormous goal but then don’t manage it to 24-hour cycles–daily mini goals. If your goal is to shed 50 pounds, your brain doesn’t see you 50 pounds lighter in 24 hours, but it can see you five ounces lighter in that time. Set your goals so that your B.S. alarm doesn’t go off. To prevent that alarm bell, the mini goal must be reasonable and sustainable. Losing one pound in a day is doable, but it’s not reasonable or sustainable, so the B.S. sentinel will scream its head off, and you’ll eventually stop going after your big goal.

3. Do something daily.
Nothing replaces repetition and creating momentum like doing something to get you closer to your goal every day. You will naturally take some time off, but if you don’t take seriously the first 30 days of work on the goal and use them to create momentum, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t get there. The first 30 days are critical to convincing your B.S. monitor that you’re serious. Organizationally, it convinces colleagues you’re serious.

4. Adapt and adjust.
As you work on your daily mini goals and toward the bigger goal, be willing to adapt. Make the mini goals more difficult if they seem too easy. Make them easier if they become too taxing. The main thing is that if your brain deems the mini goal to be too difficult, you’ll quit. If it’s too easy, you’re running in place. Find the middle so you have advancement each day.

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5. Feedback and reward.
The human brain responds to two things to learn and attain new behaviors and knowledge: feedback and reward. As you go about your goal-getting, be brave enough to request feedback from others, and then reward yourself each day for accomplishing your little goals. Research has shown that even keeping a calendar where you put a little gold star on the days you are successful (a la kindergarten) can be effective positive reinforcement. The visual is enough reward for the brain to know it’s doing something right.

6. Schedule slop time.
The worst thing you could do going into a newscast is be so tightly scheduled that there was no room for error. Every newscast was filled with anchors reading more slowly than you counted on, reports going longer than they were supposed to and other time-gobblers. The good producers always included “slop time” in their show. They would leave one to two minutes of unscheduled time to be stolen by the gobblers. You should do the same with your goals. Schedule time when you’re not focused on your goal, when you get to cheat on it or not do it at all. You’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well allow yourself the room to be human so you don’t feel dejected by temporarily ignoring your goal. Just don’t make it a habit.

7. Know you’re going to get bored.
Doing something in small pieces each day can lead to boredom. Do it anyway. Achieving goals isn’t always about a daily cork-popping ceremony to celebrate something sensational you did. It’s usually about sticking to the daily, boring small stuff. Get that right, make it slightly more difficult each day, and do it again and again. People who achieve their goals usually do it because they kept going when it gets tough and boring.


There is no secret formula to success. Mostly, it’s having a direction and place you want to get to and then showing up for the daily grind. Go get ’em.

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