Level Three Trust
Maybe you’ve seen the movie, you know, the one where one person is looking for the key to their happiness only to find that it was right in front of them the whole time? I’m not naming the movie because there are countless stories with this theme.
Sometimes the best relationships are right in front of us while we look for something new.
Sometimes the most impactful jobs are right in front of us while we search for the perfect profession.
Sometimes life at its fullest is available to us while we desperately try the latest and greatest, only to come back to where we started.
The bible as well as books and movies are full of story lines describing the inability to recognize and live into what is right in front of us. The narrative of my life mimics the same story line. Always looking around the corner for what will give more meaning, more of the life that Jesus promised.
We’ve been looking at what I call invisible necessities of leadership in recent articles and the outcome of what I want to share in this post can literally change our lives. Want to be the leader people will follow and love? Then stop looking for the new and realize that the one thing you need is right in front of you. What is this invisible necessity? Trust.
Trust is huge. When trust is present at a deep level, anything is possible, because trust leads to faith and with faith all things are possible.
This type of trust requires what I call Level Three Trust.
The first level of trust requires personal, individual honesty and alignment.
I have a friend, Luke, who has experienced some very pain-filled, abusive relationships in his 25 years of life. I love the fact that he is open, honest, raw with the story of his life. His focus currently is to be true to his growing values. He desperately wants to have his story reflect values of love and acceptance of people. He values caring for and loving people but in order to be a trusting and trustworthy person he needs behavior aligning to those values. So, he is honest to himself and focused on being someone who can be trusted. The more I spend time with Luke the more I trust him.
Level One trust is personal alignment of values and behaviors.
Level Two takes trust another level. For leaders, it is crucial that our lives personify institutional alignment. What are the values of our church or company? Does our way of speaking and acting fit those values?
A long time ago I had a devastating discovery in my leadership. I had become “appropriate.” My leadership position required me to deal with a variety of people and to move things forward in a way where the words I regularly spoke were inauthentic. Fake. I said all the right things – the words that would mobilize and please those I was leading – but they weren’t what I really meant. As I strove to be a personally trustworthy leader, I slowly became a counterfeit leader, more focused on short-term outcomes, all the while neglecting the needed institutional integrity. How I wish that I had worked through my fears and not sacrificed what I thought was right for the sake of success. Are you true to your organization’s culture? Trust may depend on it.
Level Three Trust is where life change occurs. If level one can be described as personal alignment and level two consists of taking that individual alignment into our organizational role, level three combines the first two levels into an authentic way of life resulting in great leadership. Level Three Trust can best be described as vulnerable transparency.
Here is an exercise for you. Get a sheet of paper and write down answers to this question:
What makes me trust people?
I have spent the last six months asking myself and many other leaders this question. The answers seem to fall into three different areas.
- Admitting when we feel the unsolvable emotions. We trust our leaders when they admit that fear, doubt, discouragement is present. Trust is limited when our leaders are superhuman. Why are we so hesitant to hide the fact that leaders are like everyone else?
- Owning mistakes is also crucial to Level Three Trust. A couple of years ago I brought 25 Pastors into a room with a friend and well known leader. I was facilitating a Q and A, and we started talking about keys to success and principles of leadership that are effective in our current situations. About 15 minutes into the discussion someone asked a question that stopped us all. “Where have you failed and how did you deal with it?” We spent 45 minutes listening to a great leader describe personal shortcomings and their impact on his leadership. It was gold. It was so much more meaningful than just sharing what works. Not only did we learn much, but personally, I love my friend more, and I trust him.
- We trust someone who will lovingly tell us the truth. A few years ago I worked on a project for a specific person. I reported to him. In our one on one meetings he would tell me where I was doing a good job. He also would ask me what I thought I could do better. He never gave me any negative or constructive feedback. I found myself not trusting him. I’m good… but not that good. 🙂 I wanted to know what I was doing poorly or needed to do differently. He never gave me the truth. Level Three Trust is deep and life changing because we engage in truth, whatever it might look like.
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Trust is an invisible necessity. Are you modeling and cultivating it at all three levels? What’s your next step?