Some of the executives felt, “clearly, trust is earned.” One CEO in particular felt very strongly that it is given by choice. He went on to explain his perspective, “The way I behave is perceived differently by all of my employees. Some choose to trust me and some don’t, but they all observed the same behavior.”
Now, you might say to that CEO, “well, those who chose to give you their trust must have felt you had earned it,” implying earning comes first.
But what about the person that “bends over backwards” doing trustworthy deeds who for some reason my gut just tells me I cannot trust?
Does this just leave us with chickens and eggs?
Earned vs. Given: An Example in Action
Imagine a new CEO comes on board and she holds a company-wide meeting from the corporate auditorium. Her speech is broadcast to manufacturing plants and offices around the world so everyone hears from her at once.
She is going to want the employees to trust her. She will likely be sharing a new vision and laying out what she sees as the most important strategies to pursue. Trust will be an essential ingredient in getting the employees to pursue the vision and implement the strategies with her.
- Assuming none of the employees has met her previously, all are observing exactly the same behavior at exactly the same time
- Yet, we can probably all agree that some of the employees will walk away trusting her while others will not
So what drives the individual decision to trust? Does this prove it’s a choice to give trust since the behavior displayed was the same for all to witness and no one individual was treated differently?
Why It Matters
Here’s why I think it’s important to ponder on this:
As leaders we are put in situations each and every day where we want and need people to trust us. We need to understand its drivers in order to be successful. I believe that the underlying driver is the same regardless of whether you must earn trust or whether it is given freely to you:
Knowing and being our true selves, leaders of character, and sharing our true selves openly with others.
Because if trust is earned you must demonstrate:
And if it is freely given you must demonstrate:
And if we are simply our true selves, assuming we come into our leadership roles with strong character and passionate about our vision and our purpose, we will display all of these essential ingredients. We will be trusted, regardless of whether people are freely choosing to trust us or if we are earning their trust along the way.
What do you think? Please share your insights in the comments!
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Photo is www.Army.mil of soldiers in the 3rd Platoon, Company B, Combat Team northwest of Baghdad on July 4, 2008 by the U.S. Army.