No Courage, No Trust
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities …
because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”
Trust is essential to leadership.
Courage drives trust.A Forbes article aptly titled: “Trust in Business Falls off a Cliff” summarizes the results of a national survey of over 440 companies across industries. It clearly describes a precipitous decline and record low levels of trust in management: Only 31% of respondents said their organization has effective leadership
Only 27% of respondents said they have a “high level of trust in management and the organization”. That’s down from 39% from three years earlier.
The good news… responses were significantly more positive in high-performing organizations.
Coincidence? Hardly! This study reinforces our experience in recent years. There are many reasons for decreasing trust in leadership. While there are certainly narcissistic and incompetent leaders, a primary cause of distrust in many organizations is directly driven by a lack of courageous leadership practices by otherwise-competent leaders, operating in an increasingly stressful and uncertain world.
A courageous leader who engages us around common values
ignites our commitment & energy today – and engages our hearts and minds for life!
Examples of Courageous Leadership:
- Giving people clear, specific expectations and feedback [straight talk]
- Being consistently authentic and transparent
- Objective, equitable advancement decisions
- Being ‘other-centered’
- Sharing responsibility for the team’s victories
- Including people in changes that impact them
Why doesn’t straight talk happen more often?
Straight talk is a rarity in many organizations. Often, there’s a cultural expectation to ‘spin’ communications or soft-peddle any news that won’t be celebrated – both internally and externally. The proliferation of social media plays a part in this reticence.
Market and economic pressures are often at play. The increasing lack of confidence in a rapid-change global economy creates insecurity and often an extreme level of caution.
Lack of meaningful relationships with reports is a significant barrier. Courageous leaders practice emotionally-intelligent, other-centered communication. Increasing workloads and frequent crises are fertile ground for impatience, mis-communication and the resulting mis-steps that result in deteriorating trust.
Many leaders with significant strengths lack the communication tools to confidently and empathetically engage in a dialogue about what’s working and what needs to improve – in a way that improves performance, while preserving and strengthening the relationship. While this appears to be innate to some leaders, it is an art that can be learned with the right tools and focused practice.
Often, the fear of insulting and potentially losing a key employee causes anxiety. The longer discussion is delayed, the greater the likelihood of increased anxiety and even resentment, leading to more procrastination. Many poorly-conceived emails are launched and impromptu discussions are held during this period of anxiety – often with disastrous consequences – to the individual relationship and overall leadership credibility.
Rebuilding trust begins with self awareness
and an understanding that there is no silver bullet.
Committing to sustainable change means seeking feedback and guided practice of new skills and behaviors. The Stage uses a confidential robust assessment and feedback process that results in clear measurable development goals and coaching plan. The result is ‘communication tools in your leadership toolbox’ that are natural and authentic, and there when you need them to support leadership courage and a culture of trust in your organization.
For our blog on a related subject, see Containing Toxic Leadership Damage: The Courage to Act