Creating an environment where talent can thrive sounds like a big task at best, and at worst, a complex problem.
It is neither. Everything excellent and sustainable that emerges from organisations does so because of trust. Without trust, it’s hard to achieve anything.
There are many examples of leaders who have taken their teams into incredibly challenging situations and been successful because of trust. Krishna Thapa is a former member of the SAS from Nepal. He led a team to climb Everest in 2015. When they reached the Khumbu Icefall, an earthquake hit, putting the team in peril. Because of the trusting bonds between Thapa and his team, they could make their way to safety.
Trust has three key elements. They are:
Integrity – the quality of honesty has a moral compass
Competence – a belief that you and your group members have a level of competence to do what they say they can do. A trusting relationship should not over or understate competence.
Humility – teams have lower levels of trust in leaders who have self-interest as their key driver. Leaders who believed in stewardship and put the group’s interests above their own are thought of as trustworthy.
In his book, ‘Authentic Leadership: rediscovering the secrets of creating lasting value’, Bill George describes the temptations of leadership, where the pressure to achieve shareholder value or personal interest for wealth or fame takes precedence over serving the needs of the team. Members of the group can sense the inauthentic self-interest of the leader, and trust vanishes along with performance.
Trust works in cycles of relational fulfilment rather than as linear processes. This means that trust between two people becomes reciprocal as part of an ongoing building of a relationship. A great example was that of a chief executive of a government organisation who insisted on signing off every new hire irrespective of whether the new post was in the budget or not. The result was a downward trust spiral whereby each management level learned to mistrust the next by exhibiting similar behaviours. Although these behaviours were subtle at first, Covid-19 brought untold pressures to this organisation. Stress and fatigue played heavily on the organisation leading to increased levels of absenteeism and low productivity.
So, in essence, leaders who exhibit competence, integrity and humility will be trusted by their teams and allowed to lead. Teams that are entrusted to get on with their jobs will generate much high levels of performance.
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