If you look at the traits of the great leaders of our time, there is one that stands out: they are all highly trusted. As a CA(SA) you know that no matter how captivating your vision is, how great your strategy is, how effectively you communicate, or even if you have a team of A-players – if your people (or other people) don’t trust you, you will not get the results you want.
But you only have to open a newspaper or switch on the TV to realise trust is on the wane. Not only in our culture, but in our institutions and companies, and even more so in our leaders. Stephen Covey, leadership author and businessman, writes that only 49% of employees trust senior management and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information. Consider the loss of trust and confidence in the financial markets today – it seems that trust really makes the world go round and I’m sure you’ll agree that right now, we’re experiencing a crisis of a deficit in trust.
If you as a leader inspire trust, you will get better productivity, drive, invention, devotion and revenue than others. Mistrust only nurtures cynicism, obstruction, and low productivity and turnover. Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than anything else.
A leader sometimes wrongly assumes that people will trust him because of his title. But trust is not a benefit that goes with the signature under your email. Trust has to be earned and more often than not, this takes time.
As a CA(SA) you may think, like Covey, that there’s a measurable cost to low trust and a tangible benefit to high trust. Most people probably do not consider the organisational and societal consequences of low trust because they don’t know how to quantify or measure the cost of a ‘soft’ factor such as trust. Covey says that to many of us, trust is intangible, ethereal, unquantifiable. But the fact is – as we’ve experienced as a country in the past few months – the costs of low trust are real, quantifiable – and it’s staggering.
This month we have a young, inspirational and energetic leader, Dion Shango on the cover of ASA, and he says that CAs(SA) have a responsibility to show leadership, be vigilant and speak out about the importance of trust and good governance. CAs(SA) should demonstrate not only to our country but to the world, which finds itself in the middle of a trust deficit, that trust can be restored. You need to be vocal and proud of what you stand for. And you have to do everything in your power to contribute towards a society that has trust embedded in it and appreciates the principles of good governance.
As a leader, you’re constantly impacted by trust. So let’s all strive to rebuild trust.