We are willing to follow only those we trust. An "untrusted leader" is practically a contradiction in terms, isn´t it? Irrespective of what leadership qualities we possess, they will come to almost nothing if we are not perceived as trustworthy. "No trust" is basically equal to "no genuine connection". Hence, establishing trust and connection is a foundational requirement for any leader, coach, and facilitator. How, then, can we build trust and connection?
Pioneering psychotherapist Carl Rogers set out three requirements for trust to happen:
Congruence: The aspiring leader must demonstrate consistency between her words and actions. She must walk her talk.
Empathy: The aspiring leader must develop the ability to understand how others are feeling. He must not only walk his talk, he also has to able to walk in in the shoes of others and know where the shoes pinch.
Unconditional positive regard: The aspiring leader may criticise the words and/or actions of another, but she should have a general positive regard for the person that is independent of their words and actions. She may point to flaws in the others´ shoes and even suggest they discard it, but never discard the person wearing the shoes. This perhaps is the most challenging leadership attitude to develop. We are often so conditioned to judging a person by their words and behaviours, instead of restricting our judgement to those words and behaviours.
The way we communicate can also have a major impact on whether we build trust or destroy it. More than 2500 years ago, a wise man named Siddhartha Gotama recommended that skilful speech should possess five qualities. I believe those qualities, if present, can ensure that we easily earn the trust of others. Those are:
True: He suggested that we speak only that is true. Do not lie, whether for our advantage or for the advantage of others. Trust built over years can fall apart with a single lie discovered.
Timely: Speaking the truth does not mean blurting out any truth that is on one´s mind. The content of our communication should be timely and relevant to the context and sensitivities of others.
Purposeful: We should be conscious of the purpose of what we are about to say. Is it necessary? Is it likely to be helpful?
Gentle: This refers to the tone and manner of our communication. Is our communication free from harshness?
Kind: This refers to the motivation underlying our communication. Is it motivated by kindness or is it motivated by malice? Kindness builds trust, malice damages it.
The above are qualities and skills that are not difficult to develop if we put our mind to it. That does not mean we will become perfect in them. Perfection is not the issue. What is important is to walk the path sincerely. And every journey, no matter how long, begins with a single step. There are only two requirements for success on this path: to start walking, and to keep walking.