Trust is, perhaps, the single greatest factor in leadership. And, while trust is often lacking in hierarchical power structures (in churches or businesses), the funny thing is that it’s one of the few facets described in this book that is possible within traditional hierarchical power structures (if you want a good book on this—trust in the context of traditional power structures, that is—I recommend Stephen M. R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust).
The reason trust is possible even in hierarchical systems boils down to this: Trust is 100% dependent on honesty. If a hierarchical power-based leader is fully honest and transparent (a rare occurrence, to be sure), it’s possible to instill trust. But, more often than not, the mindset of a leader in utilizing role power and hierarchy has a mindset that says, “I know things you cannot and should not know; they are not your job to know them.” If the leader were, somehow, able to be completely honest with herself (another rarity), the truth would be closer to, “Being less than transparent and fully honest with you protects my position of power, control, and authority over you. You are more dependent on me when I know more than you do.”
Ah, but this tactic just doesn’t work.
Trust is 100% possible to build. Here’s the equation I’ve come up with for building trust:
(Pure Intention + Action and Honesty) x Time = Trust
Of course, trust is very easy to lose (in a second).
It is also possible to rebuild trust after it’s been lost. But the equation gets more complex:
(Owning Up + Checking In + Pure Intention + Action and Honesty) x Time2 = Rebuilt Trust
I have an axiom I teach in my youth worker coaching groups when we’re talking about trust: Without trust and safety, your ministry will not experience communion. And without communion, the ministry will be clubbish and wimpy.
If you’re my leader and I don’t trust you:
- We will likely have friction (or at least be poised for it).
- Small things will flash into big issues.
- I will resist collaboration.
- I will be skeptical of your leadership and motives.
- I will hoard information and resources.
- I will avoid engaging in the non-work relational glue that makes great teams.
- I will unconsciously believe bad rumors I hear about you and be skeptical of good rumors I hear about you.
- I will struggle to advocate for you.
- I will subconsciously (or even consciously) not contribute to the larger vision you are casting.
of course, i go on to unpack the role of the Trust Guard, one of the 9 metaphorical job titles described in my new book Leading Without Power. this book is available at a pre-release special price of $10.99, and includes free (domestic) shipping — just use the code getlwp at checkout. but only until the end of this month when the book releases!
my dream is that church staff teams, youth ministry teams, and other church and ministry teams will read this book together and prayerfully consider how to take collective ownership of the 9 roles described in the book.