Trust: A Key Ingredient for a Leader’s Success

30 Apr

The ISC Group did a survey in 1997 with its 16 000 employees and found that trust was the number one quality employees were most looking for in a manager. Trust is a character issue. Kouzes and Posner’s questionnaire was administered to over 75 000 people and revealed that the most important quality people wanted to see in their leaders, so that they would willing follow them, was honesty [1]. Honesty emerged as the single most significant characteristic a leader could possess. Nearly 90 percent of constituents surveyed want their leaders to be honest above all else. This term was synonymous with integrity and character. Numerous respected leaders such as Max de Pree, Stephen Covey and Fred Smith (Federal Express) stress and confirm the necessity of character, not only for leadership effectives, but also credibility and longevity.

Zenger and Folkman’s research using 200 000 people to rate 25 000 leaders identified that extraordinary leaders “display high personal character” as the “center pole” of their leadership [2]. Their research revealed that a leader needed five critical competencies to be an extraordinary leader: character, personal capability, focus on results, leading organizational skills, and interpersonal skills. This confirms that an exemplary leader possesses not only character but a combination of character and an assortment of other leadership skills. Yet Zenger and Folkman contended that “personal character is the core of all leadership effectiveness.” They used an analogy of pitching a tent to explain this leadership dynamic. To raise a tent you need several poles (the five competencies) to lift it up. The key to lifting more of the tent (becoming a more effective leader) is to get multiple poles high in the air. They argued that it is essential to develop in all five areas thus raising the height of the tent or extending the leaders effectiveness and capacity. However, without the center pole of character the whole tent collapses.

How can we ignore the overwhelming evidence of the need integrity to build trust if we want to be effective leaders?

[1] Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1993). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[2] Zenger, J. H., & Folkman, J. (2002). The extraordinary leader: Turning good managers into great leaders.New York: McGraw-Hill


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