Everyone agrees that we want to be able to trust our leaders. If we don’t trust you, we won’t follow you…at least not for long. So how does a leader go about garnering the trust of those she is attempting to lead?

1. Ambition
The fact that we want ambition in our leaders may seem counter-intuitive because we too quickly assume ambition is for self. But think of it this way: How would you like to follow a leader who says, “I don’t really see us doing much around here, but that’s okay because I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I’m only in it for my own gain”? A leader must have some discontent that drives them to deep-seated ambition. The exact nature of the discontent is as varied as the leaders, but it must be there if trust is to be generated.

2. Competence
Be careful with this one. Too many assume that a leader must be competent in every aspect of a business. Or, perhaps more accurately, too many want the leader to be competent at whatever aspect of the business they care about the most. But the competence that matters most for a leader is leadership competence. A leader must constantly be growing as a leader. From there, the leader needs to be good at whatever aspect of the role they focus on. For example, some leaders are horrible at marketing, yet they still feel the need to make every important marketing decision themselves. Do your people a favor and delegate that job. When I was CEO, my team knew I was good at vision and strategic design, so they freed me to focus my energy there. They also know that I’m horrible at execution, i.e., actually getting stuff done, and they expected me to get out of their way so they could execute.

3. Integrity
In our next post, we will discuss the idea that integrity goes beyond moral character. I don’t want to belabor the point here except to say that there must be consistency between what you say, how you act, and how people perceive your values. Leaders who excel in ambition and competence but lack integrity ultimately fail in the long run, despite sometimes stunning short-term success. More importantly, while a lack of ambition or competence makes you less effective, a lack of integrity makes you destructive.