Social Leaders take action everyday, action that either builds, or erodes, trust. In our practice, as we develop our Social Leadership capability, it’s vital that we understand the ebbs and flow of trust, and how we can create the conditions, and take the actions, which build this valuable resource.
In 2017 i ran the global Landscape of Trust research project, exploring the nature of trust, across three levels: the trust we experience between two people, the trust that flows within communities, tribes, and teams, and the trust we have in the Organisation itself. As Social Leaders, we are intimately connected with all three of these, but the foundation of our power lies in the first: the way that we are with other people. Direct, one on one.
The Organisation gives you your job title and role, it defines the space in which you lead. But it does not give you leadership, and nor does it grant you trust. Leadership is what you do within these spaces. And trust is the currency that you earn as you do it.
In this context, everything counts. Every action has a price, and a reward. If the balance at the end of the day is low, it’s through our own action that we can raise it. And if we earn the trust of our community, it’s through our own actions that we may end up retaining, or collapsing it.
Part of our journey to Social Leadership is to know the boundaries of our power: at what point will we take action, at which point will we resist, at what point do we stand up. Because Social Leaders stand up for what is right, even when that brings them into respectful conflict within the system.
Culture, at heart, is what we deserve. Build it strong, and we deserve what we get. Allow it to become toxic, and we deserve that too. But it’s an aggregated force: my action alone, or yours, does not determine the whole, but it does influence it. It’s through the aggregated actions of us all that the organisation itself becomes trusted, or falls to obscurity, as it fails.