By now you probably sense that there doesn't appear to be a single key to effective leadership. But if we talk about one of the mechanisms by which personality and behaviors can beneficially impact followers, we can get close. How much would you say those you work with trust you? We often define trust as a willingness to be vulnerable to another based on positive expectations, even if you can't control or monitor the other party. The key is to highlight here in italics, are a willingness to be vulnerable. Note that that doesn't say vulnerable, only that you're willing to be vulnerable. For if there's nothing to risk then trust isn't really necessary. The second point of emphasis is that the person that trust has positive expectations. This highlights that trust is in the context of a relationship, and we trust because we believe the other party has our best interests in mind. The third thing I want to highlight is that we're willing to be vulnerable even if we cannot monitor or control the other party. If we have to monitor someone to make ourselves vulnerable then we aren't really making ourselves all that vulnerable and so that isn't considered trust. Now I want you to think about times when you've chosen to make yourself vulnerable at work. What stands out to you about those times, either by yourself in that situation or about the other party. If you're like most people, then you've done so when you think the other party is worthy of your trust. What makes another worthy of our trust? Well, we tend to see people as trustworthy when they display high levels of competence or ability, strong character, or integrity and they demonstrate that they have good intentions, what we call benevolence. They have us in mind. You can see that these three dimensions hit on all of the key aspects of trust. We're willing to be vulnerable when we have a good reason to believe the party in question is capable of and willing to behave in ways that benefit us. But there's a bit of a disconnect here. Which dimension do you think people highlight the most when trying to elicit trust? If you guessed competence, you're right. Now, what if I asked you which dimension of trustworthiness requires more attention than we tend to give it? Well, I believe that's benevolence. I've made this mistake myself. As a young professor, I focused heavily on trying to get people to see my credentials as valued. When people frequently mistake you for a student, you might be hyper-aware that you need to display a competence. Maybe you've also found yourself highlighting your skills and abilities in your area of expertise. But the danger here is that you might as I did, then neglect to highlight other aspects of yourself that are just as important, such as benevolence. Let me explain why I focused on competence can be problematic. Which one of the three trustworthiness dimensions is the least visible or salient to an observer? As the person that wants to be trusted what we'll call the trustee, we know we have this, but it's an internal state. If you've got benevolence, the extent to which we have noble intentions then you're right. Unlike our competence, our skills, and capabilities, our intentions are just that internal. When we're trying to improve our leadership skills, it's critical to keep in mind that other people's perceptions of us are the reality. Remember, they may very well be a big disconnect between how we are or how we behave as leaders and how others see us in our behaviors. The latter is what becomes reality. How others see us in our behavior. The good news is that keeping this in mind helps us establish ways of improving. First, we must make the implicit, explicit, be crystal clear with your intentions and repeatedly. Of course, we can't neglect our competencies and some of those will naturally be clear based on your credentials and experience. But it's important to remember that if any of the factors that lead us to trust are not clear to observers, then it's up to you to make them clear. Second, we have to ensure that we are consistent over time. Keep in mind that when we do something, we can recall it much more easily than someone that was just watching us. It's important to remember that because what it suggests is that we need to demonstrate our trustworthiness a lot more frequently than we think we need to. Because observers may not even remember that one time that you've told them about your noble intentions. When we think about someone's character, we also try to assess their behavior over time. Specifically, people tend to look for word, deed, alignment. Do you keep your work? Do you behave in ways that are aligned with what you say you value? This can be hard to do and any perceived misalignment will hurt trust. Now you may have good reasons for, say, having gone back on your word or having gone against an espoused value. But here again, I go back to the importance of making the implicit explicit. If you think people might see word, deed misalignment, then be transparent about why you made the choices you made. To briefly recap, we talked about the importance of trust and how by demonstrating your competence, character, and benevolence people will be more likely to trust you. When there's trust in a relationship, so when we trust others and they trust us, a whole host of positive outcomes, results. Check out an excerpt of Steven M. R Covey's book, The Speed of Trust, where he discusses the many benefits of trust.