Leadership and Trust

I recently came across this short YouTube video of General Colin Powell.  In the video he’s asked what makes a great leader, and without any hesitation he answers: “trust.”  In his view, in order to be able to effectively lead others, you must first gain their trust.  Once a leader has gained trust from his/her followers, the followers will have confidence enough to go where they are being asked to go, and to do what they are being asked to do, because they trust that they are not being led astray.

So how does one go about building trust?  I’m currently taking an international business class where this very question has been raised.  There has been a lot of research on this topic, and the research has come back with three keys for successfully building trust:

  1. Competence – by this I mean demonstrating a certain level of knowledge/competence in the area where you are trying to lead.
  2. Benevolence – this is the desire to do good to others, to be charitable and demonstrate goodwill.
  3. Integrity – this comes down to having a high level of honesty, and abiding by a strong moral code.

If Colin Powell is right (and I believe he is), you must gain the trust of your followers in order to be a good leader.  And in order to gain the trust of your followers, you must demonstrate a high level of competence, and act with benevolence and integrity.  I challenge you to do some self-introspection and ask yourself how you’re doing on these three critical components, and to resolve to do better where you find weaknesses.


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