Establish Trust

If they don’t trust you, they won’t follow you. You can trick people into following you one time, but lost trust is almost impossible to recover.

Read Leadership Strategies and learn some of the strategies that will make you a better leader in your family, community, and business.

Imagine how ridiculous a drum major would appear prancing down the boulevard without a band following along. That is the real life equivalent of leaders who have no followers. If followers are essential to leaders, how do you attract and retain them to march along and create your symphony of success?

I would rather be ashes than dustIt won’t make any difference how good you are at creating a constancy of purpose, implementing proactive leadership, innovating, or creating value; nobody will follow your lead unless they trust you. Trust is the final strategy required for an exceptional, or effective leader. Without the trust of your followers you are the prancing drum major without a band.

For guidance on building trust a leader would need to look no further than the second Object of Rotary: “High ethical standards in business and professions.” Those words high ethical standards jump right off the page as the answer to how you earn the trust of others. Again, this is not a new or unique idea, but one worth consideration as a strategy for leaders.

High ethical standards is a fancy term, but what does it mean and what can we do to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise?   And, in particular, what can we do to encourage and foster high ethical standards?  Part of those answers can be found in a historical reference to the story of Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor.

In 1932, Herb Taylor gave up a secure position at the Jewel Tea Company to accept the challenge of resuscitating the Club Aluminum Company of Chicago from impending bankruptcy. In searching how to save the struggling company, he claimed divine guidance in the creation of a business code for employees to follow.  Implementing the now well-known 4-Way Test, he was credited with not only saving the company but, ultimately turning it into a viable organization.

The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and Herbert J. Taylor became the Rotary International President in 1954-55. The 4-Way Test, as it was then, and still is:

“Of the things we think, say or do:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

The 4-Way Test of the things we think, say or do is a demonstration of a long held belief and involvement of Rotary in the concept of ethics. High ethical standards are a basic building block in building trust, but what is actually required to make this strategy the reality of membership retention and growth? How do we build the trust that creates the hands, heads and hearts of internal customers (followers) to serve more external customers?

High ethical standards isn’t always about doing things the right way, but it is about doing the right things. It is about a leader having the integrity upon which followers can rely.

The concern or excuse of compromising ethical standards is always one of being pragmatic. Is it wise to be truthful when it may cause hurt feelings? Is it justified to be creative in answering questions during a job interview when you are confident that you will eventually figure out how to accomplish the job which will provide a better standard of living for your children? Are ethics the anchor which prevents advancement, or the foundation that provides a stable platform from which to build?

One of my favorite stories regarding ethics involves a young and, aggressive college football coach who had a dream of becoming the head coach at Notre Dame. His team was about to play in a major post-season bowl game. The ethical dilemma he faced involved three players who broke the team rules and were not permitted to play in the big game.  These three players had scored 8 of every 10 points during the regular season. The press and alumni were screaming for the pragmatic answer to play them, despite their transgressions.

The coach was steadied by a strong sense of what was right. He benched the three players and won the 1977 Orange Bowl game with a stunning 31-6 upset over second-ranked Oklahoma. That victory left Arkansas third in both of the final polls. Their coach, Lou Holtz, was named National Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America and the Walter Camp Foundation.

Several years later, Father Theodore Hesburgh offered Lou Holtz the head coaching job at Notre Dame. When he made the offer, he said the decision that Holtz would be the next head coach at Notre Dame was made the day of the 1978 Orange Bowl game. Along the way to a successful coaching career at Notre Dame, he attained the singular distinction of having two of his teams achieve the nation’s highest graduation rates among college athletes.

The story about Lou Holtz is only one of many that reinforce the idea of ethics as an anchor that creates a foundation for success. It is often said that character is what you do when nobody is watching. That definition may be true, but it cannot be applied to ethics as a strategy for leadership. Character and ethics are what you do when everyone is watching. It is doing, and getting others to do, the right thing. That is why others will follow you.

History is filled with examples of leaders like Adolph Hitler who demonstrated great skills at managing (the trains ran on time) and leading, but failed as leaders because of their lack of character and where they were leading their followers.

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