Aim Higher: Why Servant Leaders Create a Culture of Trust


Servant Leadership is Based on Trust



The second quality of servant leadership that I want to address with you is the importance of building a culture of trust.

Simply put, servant leaders build a culture of trust.

Why is that key? Because without trust—for the leader, for coworkers, for the organization at large—everyone will be focused on survival rather than success. Because the opposite of a culture of trust isn’t simply “a culture without trust.” It’s a culture of fear.

What does that mean? I think of a company I worked at that, when I started, I saw a complete lack of trust. Management spent time looking for new tools to track and manage staff. It was all about analytics aimed at finding people who weren’t “working hard enough” (according to the definitions attached to the tools, at least). Those people could be put on a list and micromanaged, reprimanded or even fired.


3 Results from a Lack of Trust

There are three major problems with that kind of organization.

  1. Increasing micromanagement does not produce results.

The first is one of simple logistics. There is no amount of increased supervision that ends up being “enough,” and regardless of the effort, it will not motivate results, just behaviors.



  1. Increasing fear reactions decrease success.

The second is that it creates a horrible environment where nobody wants to work, and everyone avoids management. In between simply trying to survive, your best people will be looking for new opportunities and only those who can “work the system” will stick around. And guess what? Working the system isn’t helping promote trust, either. Because it’s a fear reaction.



  1. Increasing management oversight backfires.

The third is that the focus on the metrics is often misplaced. You find some people may survive and even succeed by exceeding the goals. But those very goals tend to not reflect what’s needed for true success. The result is often a disregard for the customer, which is the real reason for failure.




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Develop a Culture of Trust

What, in contrast, does a culture of trust provide? It encourages creativity and risk taking, because people aren’t afraid of failure and aren’t just “working to the numbers.” It promotes better listening skills, because to trust someone, you have to understand their point of view. And it creates employees who are committed to your vision and the path you’re on, not just the day-to-day activities.

My guests have some great ideas about how you can improve your ability to establish—and recognize—trust within yourself and in your organization. 

In this, the second of nine discussions about the traits of servant leaders, we talk about the importance of building a culture of trust. The conversation touches on the components of trust and how you can quickly identify which cultures are based on trust… and which are based on fear. Why worry about trust? Because, as panelist Drew Bordas puts it, “Trust gives you a shortcut to efficiency.”


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