The captains of the two international cricket teams who met in the final of the World Cup on Sunday would seem interesting examples to hold up to the lens of ‘trust in leadership’, with both Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson showing how far such trust can extend, and how fundamental it is for success. At every stage of the final (and indeed the tournament) both men showed enormous faith in the skill of their bowlers, confidence in the nerve of their batsmen, and trust in themselves as they took crucial decisions on the field of play. The mutual trust between captain and players was transparent to see, and is a hallmark of the high performing team.
An underlying pre-requisite for successful leadership might be that a team trusts their leader. For a successful team, that trust needs to extend in the other direction too – the leader needs to trust their team – particularly if we want engaged and empowered team members actively contributing to our mutual goals. This high level of bi-directional trust is also necessary for challenge and discussion, as without it we see (at the extremes) micro-management on the one hand, and complete disconnection on the other. The third element is trust in oneself, whether as leader or follower. Without that, everything becomes less stable and more difficult for everyone.
In UK politics at present however, we see precisely the reverse of what we saw on the cricket field. Trust has become a key factor in the race for the conservative leadership, with both the Johnson and Hunt campaigns claiming that the other ‘cannot be trusted’. While we might speculate that both men trust themselves, do they trust those that they are leading, and are they trusted in return?
What all this does underline however is that trust can rarely be assumed, and while it can be earned, there is always likely to be some intangible element (and indeed an element that may vary from individual to individual) that either cements or destabilises that trust.
Can a team function successfully without a certain level of trust?
Can a leader function successfully without a certain level of trust?
How can we as leaders or followers foster and engender a positive environment of trust for the benefit of all?
What we can learn from examples like these, is a theme explored in the Alchemy Leadership Development Programme.
Mutual trust is the bedrock of successful team performance and leadership, and without it all is shifting sand.
My grateful thanks to my colleague Dr Paul Hedley, Director Alchemy of Coaching, for this article.