By Linda Fisher Thornton
Waiting For Trust to Be Earned
I sometimes hear leaders say that they think “trust is earned” and that we should not trust others until they have earned our trust through their behavior and choices. I see several big problems with this way of thinking about trust.
1. This way of thinking about trust is narrowly focused on the leader, implying that trust is “someone else’s responsibility.”
2. This perspective imagines trust as a commodity, something that can be exchanged transactionally at will.
3. The leader is not expecting trustworthy behavior, and withholds trust accordingly. This negative expectation may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is a better way of thinking about trust that leads to more positive leadership outcomes.
Thinking About Trust As a Relationship
Trust is reciprocal, requiring relationship. It is something that must be built over time for mutual benefit, not just the leader’s benefit.
In a trust relationship, all parties are responsible for being trustworthy (personally) and trusting others (interpersonally). If we remove the interpersonal aspects of trust, what we are really saying is “I have all the power here. I’ll decide when you’ve been trustworthy.” That detached perspective is controlling and judgmental, and controlling and judgmental leadership is not effective leadership.
Why is controlling and judgmental leadership not effective? Because leadership (like trust) is all about building positive relationships.
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