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Successful Leaders Know This Secret About Trust

Three tips for cultivating self-trust.

Adapted from my book, It's Not About Time, with publisher permission.

"An Implosion of Trust," read the headline. It is an appropriate title, albeit concerning, for the report of findings from The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer. Their results provide significant reason for pause, noting: "This is a profound crisis in trust that has its origins in the Great Recession of 2008." A few highlights:

  • Distrust is not a simple problem, but a growing threat: "As trust in institutions erodes, the basic assumption of fairness, shared values and equal opportunity traditionally upheld by ‘the system' are no longer taken for granted."
  • Authority has moved to family and friends: "A person like yourself is now as credible as an academic or technical expert, and far more credible than a CEO or government official, implying that the primary axis of communications is now horizontal or peer-to-peer."
  • The power of self-reference: People are "nearly four times more likely to ignore information that supports a position that they do not believe in."

According to Edelman's findings, "Trust in institutions has evaporated to such extent that falsehood can be misconstrued as fact, strength as intelligence, and self-interest as social compact."

In an increasingly complex world, punctuated with imploding trust, our ability to judge real or not real, scam or opportunity, credible or not credible, trust or no trust, is a twenty-first century necessity.

BingImage - free to use and share
Source: BingImage - free to use and share

So, who do you trust in this an era of "alternative facts?" Ralph W. Emerson was right, "Self-trust is the first secret of success." That's what successful leaders know. Self-trust isn't an everyday topic, but it should be. The reality is that it's hard to trust others if you don't trust yourself. At its simplest level, self-trust is being able to count on yourself when it matters.

Effective leaders start with self-trust, but it needs to be cultivated, nurtured, and grown. Below are a few tips on how.

Cultivating Self-trust

The external alignment between what you say and do, i.e. behavioral integrity, is how others judge whether to give their trust to you or not. The same is true for you. Your internal alignment -- what you say to yourself about yourself; the actions you take or don't take as a result -- affect how you see and know yourself. These, along with other psychological factors, impact self-perception, self-confidence, and self-trust.

  1. Add a little caution. It's human nature to deceive ourselves about ourselves. We all do. Researchers even found that when our actions don't live up to our ideals, we "simply erase the failure" from our minds. Keep that in mind. Since you're not the best judge of yourself, cultivating self-trust requires enhanced self-awareness to create reality-based self-confidence.
  2. Use a good mirror. You'll need a self-initiated account-giving mirror to "see" the relationship between who you say you are or want people to think you are, and who you are. Self-trust grows when there is alignment between what you say and what you do. No alignment -- no credibility. No credibility -- no self-trust. No self-trust -- no accountability. Accountability is a tenet of self-trust. When you hold yourself accountable to yourself for your actions, decisions, choices, words, and behaviors you build self-trust.
  3. Aid personal discovery. Self-trust grows the inner path and aids the discovery of your life's potential -- gifts, talents, passions, and possibilities. Self-trust is central to the most important relationship you'll ever have -- the one with yourself. Like most relationships, it requires ongoing nurturing, caring, and connecting.

As a workplace leader, trust is a local issue. It starts with you. Being able to count on yourself when it matters enables others to see you as worthy of their trust, too. And since a "person like yourself" is now the most trusted and credible source listened to by peers, if you're grounded in self-trust, you'll be a stronger influencer to positively impact trust levels in your work group, department, organization, and community.

When it comes to self-trust in today's world of imploding trust, there are two bottom lines: First, how can you offer the best of who you are to the world if you're not offering the best of who you are to yourself? And second, how can you maneuver difficult times effectively without grounded awareness, confidence, and trust in yourself?

More tips about how to create and operate with trust at work:

You'll find more tips and how-tos in my book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation

About the Author

Nan S. Russell is a former corporate executive and the author of four books, including, Trust, Inc. and The Titleless Leader.