We don’t know who to trust anymore! Many political and some business leaders keep letting us down. In fact, they deliberately manipulate circumstances (tenders, the system, etc.) to suit their own selfish desires. Money that should have been directed to infrastructure development and other worthy projects that uplift communities is diverted into the pockets of undeserving individuals. As a result, people are becoming more and more suspicious of any process tackled by leadership. There is a nagging feeling in many within the current milieu that we are being conned – platitudes don’t ring true and there is so much evidence of corruption that is not even adequately addressed. Leaders have become adept at ‘smoothing over’ indiscretion and other evils and employees (in business) and the larger public (in countries) are left gasping at how they get away with it all.
It would seem that the only solution for the ills of our day is to place trustworthy individuals in positions of influence and power – probably easier said than done. Trustworthiness breeds trust and confidence. Trustworthiness evokes similar behaviour in others. Trustworthiness influences others to consider the greater good. Trustworthiness starts building a culture where people willingly get involved and contribute. Trustworthiness develops honour, respect and value. Here, diversity is appreciated and ‘difference’ is utilised for growth – new ideas, new offerings and creativity. In an environment where trustworthy leaders exercise their influence, people have hope. Trustworthiness triumphs over self-centredness – it has a caring disposition. Martin Luther King put it this way: “I believe that unarmed truth & unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant”. Trustworthiness conquers!
A leader, to become influential and dispel any suspicion that may exist, needs to focus on developing trustworthiness, perhaps in the following areas:
- Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards. It involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue and gains completeness in that what you say is what you do. This consistency engenders confidence and trust in followers.
- Communication transparency – nothing hidden. Clear communication of specific direction, illustrating intent, expectations and vision, is necessary. Communication should be frequent and consistent. It should be aligned to company/constitutional values.
- Presence – leadership presence demonstrates care. It suggests that the leader sees value in individuals and wants to harness potential. It offers dignity and respect. It solicits contribution. Leadership presence engenders emotional connection.
- Feedback – feedback gives people confidence in that they are being noticed and that their contribution is appreciated. It further highlights areas of success and areas that need improvement. Feedback should be two-way – leaders need to listen to what is being suggested to consider necessary changes and thus enhance the working environment and productivity as a whole.
Leaders, in whatever position, need to dispel suspicion through exhibiting trustworthy leadership. John Maxwell notes: “Success is choosing to enter the arena of action, determined to give yourself to the cause that will better humanity and last for eternity”. Trustworthy leadership lasts.