Pastor, Do People Trust You?

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Leadership is the process of motivating people to accomplish organizational goals. Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists are leaders. Sunday school teachers, cell group hosts, nursery workers and a variety of other kingdom responsibilities involve leadership. At the most basic level, mothers, fathers and heads of households are leaders. Many believers are also called to lead in the secular worlds of business, education, health care, nonprofit administration, public service and a variety of other fields. Leadership training is important.

But are leaders born or made? Some are born with talents and receive natural gifts that are particularly applicable to leadership. These gifted people can usually improve their leadership capacity even more with training. Nearly everyone is born with enough natural talent and has enough gifts that, with sufficient training, they can become good or even great leaders. A believer called into leadership has the indispensable blessings of heaven and the power of the Holy Spirit to empower them to fulfill their leadership role when they are equipped with knowledge.

Trust is a critical dimension of leadership. Since motivation is the major task of leadership, some would call trust a core virtue. If followers don't trust a leader, the leader will not accomplish much. Without trust, individuals are unlikely to make the commitment, which leads to the actions required to accomplish the mission of the organization.

"Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead, they rely on the power of trust," (Charles Green in Forbes).

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Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman published an article in Harvard Business Review Online, which identified the most important foundations of trust. The authors analyzed data from 360 leader assessments of 87,000 leaders. Using correlation and factor analysis they sought to determine what behaviors created the greatest levels of trust which followers had in their leaders. The authors identified three factors that were important.

  1. Positive Relationships. Does the leader have positive relationships with individuals and groups? Does the leader give honest feedback in helpful ways? Does the leader resolve disagreements with others? Does the leader balance a concern for results with a concern for people?
  2. Good judgment/Expertise. Does the leader make good judgments? Does the leader seek the advice of others and value their opinions? Can the leader anticipate challenges and respond quickly? Do others seek the leader's opinion?
  3. Consistency. Do the leader's actions match what they say? Do they set a good example? Does the leader honor commitments and keep promises? Is the leader willing to go the extra mile?

Leaders which could have answered yes on the above questions, scored highest on the respective foundation of trust.

Zenger and Folkman wanted to know which of the three identified foundations was the most important factor in causing followers to trust their leader. They hypothesized that it would be consistency, but they were wrong. According to the data, positive relationships was the most important predictor.

The authors also wanted to know if a trusted leader needed to score highly on all three of the factors. They found that a trusted leader needed to score a little higher than average on all three factors. Followers didn't expect their leaders to be perfect, but before giving them high levels of trust, they wanted them to be above average on all three.

Implications are clear if a leader wants their follower to trust them more. To evoke more trust, leaders should be at least slightly better than average on positive relationships, good judgment/expertise and consistency. If a leader is below average on any of the three areas, he or she should concentrate their efforts on improving that factor.

Leaders in the kingdom have a higher calling and responsibility. Kingdom leaders need to know that they have been called of God. Sharing this belief with followers, and the reasons for the belief, should be a regular part of their testimony. Unfortunately, some leaders in the kingdom were probably not called of God. Other multitudes of believers have been called, but have yet to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

We in the kingdom, have a responsibility to be worthy of trust by all. We should trust the Lord and teach others to do likewise. In other words, we should be trustworthy stewards.

"Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful [trustworthy]" (1 Cor. 4:2).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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