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The 5 Pillars To Support Trust In Leadership - Part 2

The 5 Pillars To Support Trust In Leadership - Part 2
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Last month, we explored the pillars of Honesty, Openness, and Integrity. Today we complete our discussion of the pillars of trust with the values of Competence and Vulnerability.

The most effective leaders have established trust with their colleagues and team. A trusting environment creates a safe space for open communication and ethical decision making. It also attracts loyalty from employees, reducing turnover. When you have a trusting workplace, you can count on your colleagues to do what they said they're going to do. You will also create a culture where it is ok to fail without fear. We will address these concepts in the final two pillars.


Having the right skills and work experience for the job is extremely important. But it is just as critical to show that you're competent. For example, if you have poor time management skills and consistently miss deadlines or meetings, you're going to lose trust. People will learn that they can not rely on you, no matter how talented you are at your job.

It's not uncommon for companies to focus on employee competence. Some companies take it very seriously. Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund, has a culture of deep competence testing. Every conversation at the company is audio and videotaped, scrutinized, and analyzed to a deep degree. Many people have said that the culture there is extremely challenging and those who thrive there are willing to defend any point of view they express by speaking up at a meeting. Not speaking up at a meeting is rarely tolerated which you can imagine is unlike most any other company in the world. This might seem extreme to some. Personally, I would love to do business with that company. With this level of focus on each person's competence, there is no question that only the most capable will survive. This removes the element of concern about others doing what is expected of them and knowing their stuff.

But it is not enough to have the skills to be capable of doing your job. You also need to have the knowledge and experience to match the needs of your division or team's initiatives. To maintain trust, you need to respond thoughtfully and intelligently to all questions for which you are expected to know the answer.

On the flip side, none of us are good at everything. We need help. When a task does not align with your skill set, it is extremely valuable that you know how to quickly access information, talent, and resources, and know when to say, "That is not in my wheelhouse, but let's find someone who can help or who can get it done!"

To quote the great Guy Kawasaki, "Knowledge is great. Competence is great. But the combination of both encourages people to trust you and increases your powers of enchantment. And in this world, that combination is a breath of fresh air."


Vulnerability was historically viewed as a weakness, especially in the C-Suite. But it is quite the opposite now. Letting your guard down takes courage, and allows you to show tremendous inner strength. Trust and vulnerability are intertwined. The more trust exists in the workplace, people will feel more comfortable letting their guard down, sharing ideas and not living in fear of being wrong. It becomes a more people-focused culture vs. a company focused purely on productivity.

For example, one of my executive coaching clients who manages a team was receiving complaints about an employee who was often arrogant and nasty. At first, she dismissed these rumors as hearsay. She was busy and her first instinct was that her time would be better spent on other productivity issues. After discussing it with me, she realized that she was not setting a good example by dismissing the allegations without further investigating and asking her staff follow-up questions. She went in the next morning and apologized to her staff for brushing off the initial accusations. By doing that, she was able to show her vulnerability and flaws, gaining the respect of her team. What followed were very frank, enlightening conversations about the team culture. She ended up removing the toxic person from the team. The payoff was almost immediate, with a very happy, dedicated, and productive staff.

SmartBrief said "The best leaders are those who have the courage to be themselves. They have the courage to be transparent and vulnerable. To many people, the idea of vulnerability sounds a bit touchy-feely. It has been associated with those who are weak and submissive, but vulnerability is not for wimps because it requires us to move through our fears."


We hope you have learned about yourself and the people you surround yourself with the pillars to support the uniquely important matter of trust. If you are not sure which pillars are most relevant for you to build upon, talk to people you care about. Ask them what they need to feel comfortable with you as a follower, collaborator or friend. If you keep exploring and discovering for yourself how to continuously reinforce your pillars of trust you will build a taller, deeper, and stronger relationship over your lifetime, and find success, fulfillment, and balance in all areas of your business career and the rest of your life.

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