Donald Trump Is Wrong About the Most Important Aspect of Leadership

donald trump and mike pence walking down the steps of air force one 1

by Terry Wall

Who am I to argue with Donald Trump? After all, I’m no match for him when it comes to his money, his ego, or his… hair. (Thank goodness I don’t have that hair!) But, I do beg to differ with something he said during one of the early seasons of his TV show, The Apprentice.

He said something like, “The most important thing for a leader to have is respect.” He meant people must respect you. I disagree. I think the most important thing to have is Trust. People must Trust you.

Don’t get me wrong, respect is important, but I just believe that trust is the foundation on which leadership is based. This is especially important when working in teams, as are the participants on Trump’s TV show. You see, I can respect a lot things about a leader: his or her experience, communication skills, judgment, or technical knowledge.

But if I don’t trust that person to lead me to a place that benefits the team, the organization, and me, I probably won’t be as effective in carrying out my duties as I would be if I trusted that leader. I may follow, I may even do what I’m told or asked to do, but my heart, my soul, my passion will not be in it, if I don’t trust the leader. And I firmly believe that we all do our best work when we believe in, and are passionate about, what we do. That’s what we get when we trust a leader.

By the way, trust is very hard to come by in competitive situations like those seen on The Apprentice. Yes, those teams want to win every week, because winning means not hearing the Donald say those dreaded two words. But since each person is always looking out for himself or herself, and looking for ways to make sure that it’s someone else who gets fired, it’s hard for participants to have great trust in the project manager, or each other for that matter. Unfortunately, this competitive aspect is prevalent in the real world as well.

In my consulting work with organizations, I emphasize that there are four elements of trust:

· Consistency-having our actions be consistent with our talk, and with what others expect of us;

· Listening/Flexibility-being open to opposing opinions and to constructive feedback, and being flexible enough to give new ideas a try;

· Performance Accountability-holding ourselves and other accountable for their work and their results;

· Respect for Others-treating people with dignity and respect, recognizing others for their contributions.

Keep in mind that it’s irrelevant whether you, as a leader, believe you deserve others’ trust. What is critically important is whether others, as your followers (for lack of a better word), believe you deserve their trust. That’s why I use an electronic, anonymous survey to gauge the trust level of an organization.

What can you do to improve trust, and thus leadership? Self-reflection is important. Even more important, though, is asking people you lead how well they think you do at building trust. And make sure that you, and the people you lead, are brutally honest in answering these questions.

So, yes, respect is important. I just believe that respect for a leader will be greater if that leader has a strong foundation of trust. I hate to disagree with Donald Trump, and if I worked for him, I know what his two-word response would be.

About the author

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Terry Wall–Accelerating Organizational Excellence through: Leadership Development, Facilitation & Strategic Direction, Team Building, Executive Coaching, Assessments & Surveys.