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A Matter Of Trust
By Phil Van Hooser   Printer Friendly Version

In recent days, Americans have once again experienced the phenomenon of election year politics. Local, state and national political candidates spend untold amounts of time and money to get "their leadership message" to the people (a.k.a. the voters).

Their message? It basically is this. "Vote for me because I am the most capable candidate to lead this . . . city, county, state, nation (pick one)." How do they prove such leadership worthiness? In an effort to garner every available vote, too many of these candidates scamper to publicly highlight the weaknesses and human frailties of their political opponents. At the same time, seeking to appear guiltless relative to their own past shortcomings. Is it really a surprise that many walk away from such experiences jaded and muttering, "I don't trust any of them."

Most of us recognize that one of the key elements of the leadership equation is the issue of trust. We also recognize that trust, like respect, does not come with the leadership positions we occupy. Trust must be earned. We earn it from those who desire to be led. But, how?

Without question this is the most important aspect in earning trust, and yet, it is often the most overlooked. We are personally impressed by leaders who, in practice, take a little bit more than their share of the blame and a little bit less than their share of the credit. Too often though, human nature leads us to do just the opposite - to take a little bit more than our share of the credit and a little bit less than our share of the blame. Remember, the buck stops where? With the leader, that's where!

To be a trusted leader requires us to "fess up" regularly. I have a theory about such things. It can be stated this way: We tend to forgive that which we can imagine ourselves having done. We have difficulty forgiving that which we can't imagine ourselves doing. In other words, followers will accept the fact that you occasionally make mistakes -- we all do. On the other hand, they cannot or will not forgive mistakes that their leader is unwilling to admit and take responsibility for. Why? Because they can't imagine (or stomach) an unwillingness to admit mistakes that are already obvious to everyone.

If we are going to take responsibility and level with our followers, the next obvious step is honest, open communications with them. But, please be careful. I encourage you to share your emotions -- don't show them! Don't assume that your followers can read your mind as to what you are thinking and feeling. They can't and they shouldn't be expect to. You are their leader -- lead! Step out of your comfort zones and tell your people about the emotions you are experiencing -- good and bad. By so doing, you quickly earn the reputation as someone that can be trusted.

After all, what better exit poll is there for leaders than that?

Thank you for requesting this article written by Phillip Van Hooser, CSP.

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