The Essence of Leadership: Trust


While addressing a conference a few years ago, Colin Powell was asked this question: “How would you define the key characteristics of effective leadership that allow you to go and be an advocate for good?” Without skipping a beat, he answered, “Trust.” He went on to say, “The longer I’ve been in public service, and the more people that have asked me about leadership over the years, leadership ultimately comes down to creating conditions of trust within an organization. Good leaders are people who are trusted by followers. Leaders take organizations passed the level that the science of management says is possible.”

After telling a story about his time in infantry school at Fort Benning, where he says he learned everything he knows about leadership some 50 years ago, he continued, “People look to you and they trust you because you’re serving selflessly as the leader, not self-serving, selflessly, and that you prepare the followers. You train them. You give them what they need to get the job done; don’t give them a job if you’re not going to give them the resources, and that you’re prepared to take the risks with them. They would teach us at the infantry school, no matter how cold it is, Lieutenant, you must never look cold. No matter how hungry you all are, Lieutenant, you must never appear hungry. No matter how terrified you are, Lieutenant, you must never look terrified, because if you are scared, terrified, hungry, and cold, they will be scared, terrified, hungry, and cold. I’ve gotten away with that many, many times in the course of my career by being scared to death, cold, and wanting to go to sleep, but no, let’s go, let’s keep going. Let’s go around this corner, if only out of curiosity, and they’ll follow you into the darkest night, down the deepest valley, up the highest hill, if they trust you.”

In the end, he concluded, “The essence of Leadership is about doing all that the science of management says you can with resources, but then taking that extra step, and giving it that spark, and that spark comes from getting people to trust you, so that they will follow you, if only out of curiosity.”

In 2012, David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line, published an article in Forbes describing eight key components of building trust as a Leader:

  • Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous.
  • Compassion: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.
  • Character: People notice those who do what is right ahead of what is easy.
  • Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results.
  • Competency: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.
  • Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends—and having friends is all about building connections.
  • Commitment: People believe in those who stand through adversity.
  • Consistency: In every area of life, it’s the little things—done consistently—that make the big difference.

Over the years, we appreciate every relationship Registry Partners has built with our clients, co-workers, and colleagues. We are committed to these key components and will work tirelessly to earn and maintain your trust in an ever-changing field.