Trust me; I’m a leader
Trust is hard won and often easily lost. It’s a word that can be used superficially and given ‘lip-service’ in some organisations. Trust though, it seems, is making a come back.
There is one message that we often hear loud and clear from the media, colleagues, employees, friends, and strangers; “They don’t care about us!”. There is a crisis of trust, and a crisis of trust particularly in leaders.
There are many examples of organisations where people have wondered if they, and their leaders, can be trusted, both in the corporate world and in education. The new need for transparency cannot be avoided, as often now truth is being exposed through the use of social media and smart phones. It is far harder to hide these days and leaders who think otherwise are likely to discover the truth the hard way.
As we work with the new generations of: Millennial’s, Generation X and Generation Y, who we lead and are rapidly becoming leaders themselves, we find a younger generation less willing to trust on face value or just a title of authority. If they do not respect someone, they will not follow them. Trust is very important to the new generation.
John Blakey in his book, “The Trusted Executive” states, “I believe the world is poised to reject those leaders who trust in power and embrace those who rely upon the power of trust.”
This is a call to reject the untrustworthy agent model of leadership that has been in place in business now for a hundred years. The concept remains that leaders in schools are there as agents to carry out the will of the Government and this comes with the concept that they are untrustworthy and therefore need to be closely monitored and kept in check. This then cascades to senior leaders, middle leaders and classroom teachers. We see it in our audit cultures, in our intense monitoring, “You’re not trusted, use this system, these forms, this procedure, and we will be watching”. In return as leaders we receive, “We don’t trust your motives, we don’t trust your intent, you don’t care about us”. This philosophy has well documented outcomes from the autocratic style it produces, including creating dependency, hindering creativity and risk taking, hurting morale and choking off excellence. Teachers stop being professional experts and become ‘agents’, mimicking others and becoming de-skilled. That may of course be as some organisations wish them to be; “just do it this way”, but that will never lead to individual personal bests that come together to create great teaching and learning.
It’s interesting that the greater the threat the lesser the trust. I would like to argue that this is counter-productive to moving a school to ‘good’, yet with the stakes high, we tend to actually do the things that undermine progress. If in doubt, monitor a little more closely. High stress affects our behaviours unless we can stand back, observe the situation and chose to act differently.
Patrick Lencioni in his book, “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team”, has trust as the bedrock of his model to ensure an organisation is focused on results. Lack of trust is a huge preventative distraction from results. No trust means good conflict doesn’t take place, which in turn means there is no commitment. No commitment means a severe lack of accountability, which leads to a lack of focus on results. The organisation is instead focused on politics, ‘back-watching’ and self-interest.
The alternative is not blind trust, but building high trust relationships over time and having a the triple bottom line of results, relationships and reputation. As a leader choose to be open, honest and consistent. Choose to coach rather than instruct, be humble, be kind and be brave. Create an organisation where the leader knows what is going on and the staff member chooses to take responsibility. Where there is high challenge and high support with true accountability.
What would a high trust culture and environment look like in your organisation? What would you see? What conversations would you hear? What would the organisation feel like? What would be happening? And what would you not see happening?
The potential benefits of a high trust culture are incredible; if only we would be brave enough to rely on the power of trust, rather than trusting in power.
Next steps you could consider:
- Read John Blakey’s book – “The Trusted Executive”
- Read Patrick Lencioni’s book – “The 5 dysfunctions of a team”
- Read Sir John Whitmore’s book – “Coaching for performance”
- Create a coaching leadership culture in your organisation
FusionHR can provide one-on-one Executive coaching, Leadership Team training and Leadership Reviews. Contact the team to discuss how they can help your school or trust.
Executive Coach and FusionHR Associate.
Ian White is a professional and qualified educator with over 15 years’ experience as a senior leader. Ian has trained extensively on leadership and development and had many examples from his professional life, which assist in giving his training sessions a realistic and relatable quality.