The Best Leaders Strengthen Teams Through Trust

BY Kathy Crosett
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Whether you admired him or not, you have to give George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, credit
for understanding one important detail about leadership. It’s not about being smarter than everyone else in your company. Good leadership is about being smart enough to build and rely on an outstanding team. Theresa Johnston, in an article for the Stanford Graduate School of Business, points out that leaders won’t succeed unless they also build trust with their teams and that's another detail Bush got right.

It’s difficult for many top leaders to understand everything isn’t all about them. These folks have often achieved great success because they are driven, competitive individuals. They’re willing to give everything to succeed. While these entrepreneurial characteristics may help them build a great enterprise, these leaders are often asked to step aside by venture capital teams who want to invest in the business. That’s because venture capitalists understand that a different set of leadership skills are necessary to guide and grow an enterprise.

You may not be running a Fortune 500 company, but you’ll want to consider the advice of Mark Leslie, previous CEO of Veritas Software, managing director of Leslie Ventures, and lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business. That advice is to build trust with your team. Leslie describes a scenario where he shared decision-​making responsibility with his engineers at Veritas. After describing the possible outcomes of “reverse-​splitting the company’s stock” he let the engineers decide what to do. This release of control when making an important decision for the company is an example of how to build trust.

You hired your team members to help you with your mission, whether it’s running a department or the company. If you want these folks to feel vested in what they are doing, you must be willing to let them have input on decisions that matter. When they feel their opinions matter, they'll work harder in general to ensure the success of the organization. They'll also grow to trust you and each other. You don’t have to ask for their advice or follow their suggestions for every decision, but if you want to build trust and strengthen the team, you should do so regularly.