The Foundation of Character - Trust
Posted Thu, 03/03/2011 - 1:00am by Connie Boltinghouse
Values are important; they are the heart-springs that give strength and quality to our choices and behavior. Biographies of leaders often discuss the values, character, and capabilities that honed their leadership into influencing and investing into others’ lives. It is important as a leader to know your values and model them daily as you imprint culture. Leadership is about relationships through which accomplishments are created and completed. Trust is the bedrock of a relationship. With trust embedded in that foundation, all other leadership values are set up for success. Proverbs declares the format for our relationship with God to be built upon trust, and relationships between a leader and followers should as well: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).
Trust! Can I trust you? Do you care enough about me to be a trustworthy leader? This is the unspoken question, and the hope is to hear a resounding yes! As a leader do you act in a trustworthy manner? Here are some ideas that make a great check list to answer that question:
- Be honest, speak clearly
- Be transparent, no hidden motive
- Apologize, mistakes are okay
- Keep promises, no excuses for poor performance
- No participation in negative conversations, including listening
- Accept feedback, no defensiveness
- Address issues, have difficult conversations
Sometimes it is helpful to observe an example. Years ago I was involved in a company merger where one of the first things to depart was trust. Technology bottlenecks within both companies caused unintentional mistakes that led to miscommunications where production was thrown out of balance. Orders were sent to the wrong places, people got their feelings hurt, and we had a general mess on our hands. Through seeking to understand the problems and much communication with all parties, systems and procedures were discovered to handle the problems with efficiency. But it took six months to undo the lack of trust and misunderstandings that had occurred.
This can happen in the church as well. During transition or formation of new systems within ministries, trust between leaders and teams can become strained. Communication is necessary throughout the process to ensure that all parties are well-informed and grasp the scope of change. This requires trust in one another’s abilities and character, which is demonstrated in how we treat the people we lead. There will be difficulties and not everyone may agree with a decision. We must be transparent enough to explain the intent of our heart when having difficult conversations so people will better understand our behavior.
I consulted with a church where there was a misunderstanding between the youth pastor and parents. Miscommunication occurred as the youth pastor instructed the youth and expected them to explain programs and arrangements to their parents. When a mission trip was planned, parents didn’t get on board, because they didn’t understand the plan and the details. We learned that in order to keep the parents’ trust, the youth pastor needed to directly communicate with them.
Anyone that is affected by our decisions needs to receive our clear and direct communication, which removes ambiguity and increases the trust level. Because we are leaders, our words and behavior have impactful strength. Our followers constantly assess value to our words and actions. And we must constantly be aware of how we imprint our values (or lack thereof) upon people’s lives.
How is Christ imprinting each of you as a leader or follower? We can trust Him because of His gift of grace…because He loves us. I pray that each follower knows that their leader cares about them, can be trusted, and extends grace even in the difficult spaces.