A New Take on Trust

If you’ve been following this space, you’ll know we’ve recently been working our way through the leadership characteristics captured in the acronym ELASTIC that will form the basis of my upcoming workshop series and book: energy, likeability, adaptability, strategy…the T stands for trust.

When we think of trust, we often think of integrity. Being true to one’s word. Guarding appropriate confidentiality. Living in alignment with our values.

Those are all true and necessary conditions for being a trusted leader. But there’s another aspect of trust that I’m wondering about: being trusted as someone who “gets it.”

Consider sending someone to a meeting on your behalf. Trusting them means having confidence they will read the room and understand enough of the background to represent you well. Having integrity might be “table stakes” to be there, but you also want to be reasonably sure they will pick up on necessary cues and respond accordingly with good judgement.

In Nimble, I write about avoiding being The Oblivious Facilitator. Since that book came out, I’ve realized that I want to avoid being The Oblivious…Anything! I’d prefer to phrase it more positively, but I’m not 100% sure what the opposite of oblivious is. Aware? Conscious? Attentive? These words don’t quite infer “trusted” explicitly, but isn’t it true that we trust people more who demonstrate those qualities?

This is one place where being trusted and strategic as a leader intersect. As I wrote about last week, one element of being a strategic leader is having a strong awareness of context. I’m starting to believe that an obliviousness to context can also significantly undermine trust. It’s that important.

One of my favourite books to read with my two-year-old granddaughter Tatum is called Circle. At one point in the story, Circle exclaims in frustration about her rock sculpture, “Whatever is the opposite of perfect, that is what this is!”  That turn of phrase has stuck with me. “What is the opposite of oblivious, that is what I want to be.” It’s true for lots of reasons, but one of them is to earn trust.

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