How Do I Build Trust in My Leadership? Be Clear!

How Do I Build Trust in My Leadership? Be Clear! by Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.

It may be thought, and generally perceived by many, that trust is a “soft skill” and although it is a critical skill for the successful business leader or school administrator, it may remain elusive and intangible. David Horsager reveals that this is far from the truth. He states that,

“…trust is not a soft skill. It is a measurable competency that brings dramatic results. It can be built into an organization’s strategy, goals, and culture.”[1]

He goes on to illustrate that,

“Trust is tangible, learnable, and measurable. Trust is not simply a dish in your leadership buffet. It is the table holding up the smorgasbord of talent demonstrated by your team every day.”[2]

People trust the clear and distrust the ambiguous. When academic and achievement goals are clear and understandable, only then are they potentially attainable. When campus or program development visions of the future are specific and well-formed, only then will others be able to embrace and rally alongside the journey to that future. One study of public organizations found that,

“…organizational goal clarity, public service motivation, and work impact can increase an organization’s mission valence. In addition, the findings validate the importance of mission valence by illustrating its effect on two important human resource outcomes, job satisfaction and absenteeism.”[3]

For independent schools, if our mission and goal statements clearly include our ethos and core values, that clarity in purpose and direction has a direct impact not only on our faculty and staff, but also on our students. Does ethical content within a school’s mission statement really have a direct impact upon the school community? Check out this research:

We attempted to discover whether universities that explicitly state their ethical orientation and vision in their mission statements had students with higher perceived character trait importance and activities that reinforce character than universities that did not… Using a sample of senior business students at 16 universities we found that students at universities with ethical statements in their mission statements had significantly higher perceived character trait importance and character reinforcement than those at universities whose missions lacked ethical statements. This research suggests that schools that explicitly stated ethical content in their mission statements do influence student ethical orientation. [4]

Clarity matters! Words matter! When those words are clear they have a measurable impact on students and on the success of our school’s organizational goals.

To what extent is your school intentionally investing resources, time, and professional development into expanding their level of trust?  Research has shown that the schools (and school leaders) who focus on strategically building their level of trust with the community, with their students, and with their faculty and staff, reap tremendous benefits – including higher levels of teacher and student engagement,  greater teacher retention, stronger financial bottom-lines, and measureable mission and vision fulfillment.

©2016 Toby A. Travis

[1]Horsager, David (2012). The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line. (Kindle Locations 169-170). Free Press.

[2] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 273-275).

[3] Wright, B. E., and Pandey, S. K. (2011). Public Organizations and Mission Valence: When Does Mission Matter? Administration & Society 43, 22-44.

[4] Davis, J. H., Ruhe, J. A., Lee, M., and Rajadhyaksha, U. (2007). Mission possible: Do school mission statements work? Journal of Business Ethics 70, 99-110.

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