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Leadership & Trust: cornerstones of business

By 01/11/2015November 15th, 2015News

By Ingrid Lotze, joining force at join.the.dots, and President Elect for PRISA

“Among all the attributes of the greatest leaders of our time, one stands above the rest: They are all highly trusted.” This wisdom comes from David Horsager, author of ‘The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line’.

David goes on to say that you can have a compelling vision, rock-solid strategy, excellent communication skills, innovative insight, and a skilled team, but if people don’t trust you, you will never get the results you want.

I recall attending a talk at the Gordon Institute of Business in Johannesburg entitled “Building Trust: the ultimate business challenge” back in 2013.  Two years ago there were seminars, interviews, talks and great interest in trust as both a challenge for business and in interpersonal relationships. It should by now be common knowledge that companies with high levels of trust enjoy higher stock prices, improved profits, and better retention of key employees. Why then are we still discussing how important trust is?

There is an understanding that trust cannot be built overnight and that it requires time, effort, diligence, and strength of character. One would have thought that by 2015 companies and leaders would have expended sufficient energy on engaging their stakeholders, delivering consistently high levels of products and services and made some serious strides in living their core values. To use my children’s term on holiday trips “are we there yet?”

The answer is sadly no, not yet. Trust certainly seems to be a scarce commodity, across the globe. Here in our own country there are trust issues from government to corporate, from cultural to personal. Yes, we may well be in an unenviable position as a result of hundreds of years of history, but the reality is that little is being done to rectify the situation and tread new ground.

The single factor that appears to be the fulcrum of trust within the business world is one of leadership. When an organisation has a leader who is authentic and operates from a place of integrity, the path to trust is already partially paved.

You may have heard the saying “What you do is shouting so loudly in my ear that I can’t hear what you are saying”. Leaders need to walk the talk each and every day. No one expects perfection, but they expect consistency and honesty.

Remember that not having trust in a relationship is like adding an additional layer of tax to all of the interactions. Each time communication or action is initiated, intention comes into question and this slows the process down. Sometimes creating a bog of mistrust and a smelly outcome.

Everyone has the capacity to build trust and engender authentic relationships on a daily basis. We can do it with our children and our spouses, with our colleagues and our friends. We do it by showing up each day in a way that shows respect to those around us and by doing the things we said we would.

There is sufficient research that shows unequivocally that trust is a cornerstone of business. That without trust businesses have a high mortality rate, but it would seem that building trust is more difficult than originally thought. Leaders have to rely on the power of trust and realise that few things built trust quicker than actual results.

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