Trust — The cost of commitment

Changes in leadership are generally times of stress for an organisation, because trust has to be transferred from leaders whose judgment they still have to discover.

Colin Nyathi


Ideally, from the point of view of confidence, new leadership should grow up from within the organisation so that there is a natural succession as there was from Moses to Joshua.

Of all elements of relationships, the one that is most crucial to leadership is probably trust.

If I am dangling over a cliff on the end of a rope, the thing uppermost in my mind regarding the man on the other end of the rope is not whether I like him, but whether I can trust him.

Similarly, the more important the relationship is, the more costly the commitment of real trust becomes, because the more there is at stake.

Leadership is a position of trust, and the position of responsibility rests on the party that has most power.

Leaders always have more power than others because they control all the most important decisions and have more knowledge than other people as to what is going on.

Knowledge is power, which is why leaders generally like to control the amount and timing of information releases.

What is trust?
Because it is so important to leadership relationships, we need to understand just what trust is and why we seem to have perennial difficulties with it, both in our relationship with God and in our relationships with each other.

 Trust is a choice we make
We cannot be forced to trust. If we do it, we must do it voluntarily. Therefore, if leaders say, “You will just have to trust us in this step”, people will always resent it, and will feel trapped. But sometimes, it’s necessary to say that.

 Trust is a risk we take
The risk we take in trusting is that we have, thereby, let some part of our life go out of our control and into the hands of somebody else because the outcome of that particular issue now depends on the person or the people we have trusted.

The cost involved in trust is that we have, thereby, accepted a position of vulnerability because we are no longer in control of that part of our destiny, whether the part is great or small.
When people trust leaders, they often let outcomes affecting very important areas of their lives go out of their control and into the hands of the leaders, and the vulnerability that ensues can be a very frightening thing.

Few leaders appreciate the cost of the trust they sometimes expect as a right from their people.

 The evidence that we have trusted is that we have made no contingency plans, in case we are let down
If I say I trust you, but then arrange a backup or a fallback position in case you let me down . . . what I am communicating is that I do not really trust you at all, or that I am putting you to the test to see if I can trust you.

 Because trust involves vulnerability, strong emotions are always aroused when trust is broken, particularly when it is broken by leaders
The effect of a breach of trust is that part of our universe that we thought was safe and dependable is suddenly found to be uncertain and unpredictable. The emotions likely to be aroused by this dangerous discovery is fear and anxiety and the normal defensive response to fear is anger.

Leaders who have been involved in some failure that has lost them the trust of their people are invariably startled and dismayed at the amount of emotion generated and the anger often displayed toward them. The reason being “loss of trust”.

 There is a necessary link between trust and responsibility or accountability
When people trust leaders, they let certain outcomes go out of their control and into the control of the leaders, which means that the leaders are then answerable for those outcomes and
accountable for any failure. One of the marks of a leader is the ability and the willingness to shoulder responsibility for results.

 Trust is fragile, and once broken, is very difficult to restore
Forgiveness is the work of a moment, but the restoration of trust is something different, it is very, very different and it always takes time.

 What should people trust?
The following are the qualities they are putting their confidence in:

 The judgment of the leaders

People have to trust the judgment of their leaders simply because they cannot see the future, or see the goals, as clearly as the leaders can.

Therefore, they are following, trusting that the leaders have got the goals right. People trust the leader’s judgment, not their persuasiveness this is why it is always harder to trust new or untried leaders, because there is no track record to go on.

As leaders demonstrate the reliability of their judgment, the people’s confidence in them will grow.

Ideally, from the point of view of confidence, new leadership should grow up from within the organisation so that there is a natural succession as there was from Moses to Joshua.

Because people have to trust the leader’s judgment it follows that when leaders are communicating decisions, they should always make clear the basis for their judgment, that is, the certainties, the probabilities, the assumptions or estimates and the faith steps.

 The resourcefulness of the leaders
People are also trusting that the leaders have the resourcefulness to handle the unknown future and the ability to find answers to problems and meet contingencies as and when they arise. Here also, confidence in leaders grows as they demonstrate their competence in handling difficulties and problems.

 Trusting the leader’s perseverance
People are also trusting that their leaders will stick with the vision until they actually reach their goal or will stay with the project until it is finished.

Leader’s do not, in most people’s view, have the luxury of opting out or losing heart if the going gets tough.

Their perceived role is to hang in there and keep the vessel on course when everybody else is ready to give up and abandon ship.

Moreover, leaders are not to look for any special praise or kudos for doing the job in these circumstances because that is what leaders are for.

 The integrity of the leaders
Tom Marshal says: “If you make a mistake and don’t admit it, you end up defending a lie and lay yourself open to deception.”

People do not expect their leaders to be infallible, only God is, but they are expected to be honest.

Leaders need to be very frank and very honest about mistakes, without making excuses, evading responsibility or rationalising.

Rationalising is giving a reason that is not the real reason, but is one that is more acceptable to our self-image.

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