Jesus on Leadership focused on what a follower needs to trust a leader, but since this is a book for leaders to read, it seemed a bit backwards. Sure, leaders need to be trustworthy, but they also need to learn to trust others. A leader who doesn’t trust isn’t worth trusting. Leaders don’t need to learn how to cultivate trust as much as they need to practice it themselves.
I guess the reason I’m thinking this way is that I was asking myself, “How does a follower know whether the leader is really trustworthy or whether s/he is just good at eliciting people’s trust?” I mean, think about politicians (okay, the worst kind of leadership example out there). I guess, what I’m getting at is that we may trust someone whether or not they’re actually trustworthy. We may trust them, whether they have the qualities of honesty and integrity or whether we just think they do. Maybe we trust them precisely because they’re duplicitous and convincing.
However, when a leader places a high level of trust in those who follow him, a relationship develops: I trust you, you trust me. We’re in this together, and we’re depending on each other now. When a leader puts trust in his followers, that gives him credibility. It’s more likely, when he’s got something to lose, that he’s actually going to be on my side, that I can trust him to uphold his end of trust.
I don’t think leaders do this very well. I think it’s a constant temptation not to trust those who follow you.
Here I think group size plays a role. As the size of the group increases, the level of trust decreases, in both directions. More on that later.