Leader, Who Do You Follow?

by Neil Franks May 16, 2015

Who do you follow? Who are the leaders that you trust and believe in? What about your role as a leader, and the importance of earning the trust of you’re people? Why should they trust you?

In my previous piece on Building Trust, I discussed important aspects of building trust in the people you lead. This begins with your relationship with God and the level of trust you are living in every day. Again, that cannot be understated or assumed. If you don’t trust God for everything in your life and confess that daily than the rest of these principles are a waste of time! Proverbs 3: 5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.”

As you know, God really provides the best example of how to be trustworthy. He has proven to be reliable in everything He has said and done. Jesus gave us great examples by how He lived a trustworthy lifestyle. He treated His followers with genuine love and respect. His actions were consistent. Even when people did not agree with His words and decisions, Jesus was true to his Godly character. It is so much easier to trust someone who is trustworthy.

It is important to create a culture of high trust and low fear.  High trust comes from showing others that character counts our words we say and our actions to back it up. After that a leader must being capable and consistent. People have to know you are the right person for your role and they must witness the results over and over.

Part of building high trust and low fear is through how you communicate. Communicating well was the tool Jesus used to share love and truth. Jesus communicated verbally and non-verbally. Being trustworthy in His actions validated those truths.  An example of a powerful non-verbal action was told in John, chapter 6, where Jesus takes 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feeds thousands of people. Many that were following Jesus were hoping he was the Messiah and they were also hungry. Jesus never said a word to each person but his actions communicated that He cared, that He loved them and that He had the power to do, only what God’s Son could do.

Trustworthy communication is hard work. It requires clarity. You must be specific. Sometimes leaders over exaggerate numbers to make the results look good. The numbers are helpful and critical to know because what you measure gives you an indicator of how you are doing. But counting your plans and goals should either be specific or not shared at all. People second guess a leader if they cannot prove their results. The apostle John told us that 5000 men were fed from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. That is specific and it makes the true story very powerful.

Another principle Jesus used often is his habit of being concise. Being concise is not a habit that most leaders are born with. Concise means giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words. There is an art to be concise. It requires practice. Trustworthy leaders should keep people up to date on information that could be important to their lives and especially in the life of the church. Creating the right wording in communication is the missing strategy that most leaders miss. Be concise. Jesus shared over 40 parables by sharing truth and being concise.  In Luke 12:15, Jesus describes a story with a powerful warning. He gives the truth first about being careful not to get caught up in greed and possessions more than their relationship with God. He then describes a rich farmer that had a big crop and decided to build more and more barns to gather more and more crops.  Jesus warns the farmer wanted be rich in things and not in God! In less than 150 words, Jesus teaches with concise communication.

 Most leaders are anxious to move on. It’s a gift and a curse. Leaders that are good planners are always thinking about what is coming up next. But moving on can kill the communication that everyone you lead needs to hear. You must communicate the who, what, where, why, how over and over again. Why? Because you develop trust by building a team of believers in what you see God leading you in. They can’t believe in what they don’t understand.

Before I came to one of my church assignments, I was told a story about a nightmare experience from one of the previous pastors.  The pastor had told the leadership of the church that he had committed verbally to begin a major mission project in another country and he knew they would love the value of his strategic decision. One of the men who had been involved in the church for years scolded the pastor for not allowing his servant leadership team to discuss, pray and seek God for His plan. That leader left the church a few months later.  The mission project never happened. Trust is easily broken when communication is taken for granted. That pastor could have easily shared the who, what, where, why and how that night with an extended time of prayer at the end to ask God and the group for wisdom. God only knows that maybe that mission project would have happened.

Not only do you communicate often but you pay attention to the generation you are talking to. Every generation has a different form of understanding based on the time they grew up. If you don’t think so then try and tell someone who fought in World War II to stop being so patriotic. That generation created the definition of what being patriotic means! They also are loyal. If you want to change something they like you need to take the time to explain why. The opposite example is the Millennial generation (ages 18 to 36). They are loyal to friends and causes more than traditions. Every generation has a different frame of reference. A good communicator knows and studies their audience.

The last principle of building trust is measured by how well you respond to criticism. Most leaders work hard to do things well and it can create an inner pride. That leader may believe that know one else understands the situation like they do. Although that is probably true, they develop a distrust in following other’s advice. Pastors may use their title to make power statements when challenged by critical thoughts like, “Hey, I am the senior pastor!” Without understanding the principle, the leader is building a shallow trust. Others may nod their head in agreement but inside are not “sure” about the direction you want to take them. A good leader is open to direct criticism. Proverbs 27:6 reminds us that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend," and Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Patrick Lencioni is an author and consultant to leaders and from his own personal experience revealed what he tells leaders over and over again. He calls the principle “vulnerability-based trust”. He says that there is a powerful foundation built when leaders readily admit their “faults, mistakes and relative deficiencies” to the people they lead. Lencioni says that people love to buy into discussions where good “healthy & honest” conflicts and ideas can turn into solutions that the whole team agrees on. Lencioni says without building that trust the leader stands alone!

So to summarize what building trust involves: you trust God daily, create high trust and low fear, be consistent with follow-through, communicate: the who, what, when, where and why, use clarity, saying things in a concise way, explain it over and over again and respond to criticism in order to build a team that ultimately trusts your leadership.