How does a steward leader foster trust?
Because I am often engaged in preparing people for their life as an executive, I get to correspond and converse with their reflections and trust is a common theme. Here is one response to someone from one of my classes for Christian Leadership Alliance a few years ago, after they wrote of learning to trust in their new executive role:
Your honesty about giving up control and exercising trust opens you up to personal growth.
Reading between the lines a little, it seems like you have occasionally (or frequently) offered ideas and were ready to move forward, but experienced being reeled in or being told “no” altogether. Unlike you, others are reticent to risk their ideas and don’t feel internal permission out of fear or anxiety.
So, your challenge to develop trust rests in whether leaders/authorities/higher ups make wise decisions, and whether their wisdom is revealed down the road. Those anxious others have a different trust issue. They need to trust that the environment is safe for their ideas to find expression at all.
Is there a third option? Can there be environments where teams of leaders are able to float ideas, and where, jointly, everyone gets to add to them before they are fully formed and made actionable? Creating such environments, and participating in them, is a steward leader responsibility — making room for the development of people and their gifts.
Trust grows in safe environments.
Steward Leaders know that people are the critical assets, the location of intellectual capital, the centerpiece of sustained success. They foster safety in the middle of challenging conversations. They set the boundaries for discourse and guide the framework of issues that must be evaluated, deconstructed, addressed, and put forward into some sort of solution, that in turns gets evaluated and so on.
Who starts this cycle?
If we think just a bit more deeply we realize trust starts with the individual who offers it. A demand that trust must be first shown before we show it ourselves is self-defeating. Someone, somewhere, the team leader or the team participant, must bring their personal well-being and high level of emotional intelligence to set the pace for the rest of the team to build and show it. And, more often than not, it is done via quiet dignity rather than through trumpeted virtue.
Mark L. Vincent is the CEO of Design Group International. He also serves as a CLA Leader2Leader facilitator and is actively involved as a subject matter expert and faculty for the CLA Outcomes Academy.
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