Jack Welch, former chair and CEO of General Electric and recognized leadership expert, recently made these comments in an interview:
Leadership today is all about two words: It’s all about truth and trust. You’ve got to have their back when they didn’t hit it out of the park, you’ve got to have their back when they hit it out of the park.
When they trust you, you’ll get truth. And if you get truth, you get speed. If you get speed, you’re going to act. That’s how it works.
I started thinking about that idea of truth through trust and of how that has impacted my life. You most likely can join me in naming people in your life who chose to trust you. And like me, you can probably tell stories about how that trust allowed you to be truthful. And to complete Mr. Welch’s formula, how that prompted you to action.
In a relationship like that — an investment of trust, an attention to truth — the ties that bind become stronger. The overlap of lives that are trusting and truthful produces great things — love, respect, creativity, and resilience when things go well and even forgiveness and energy to start over when hard times hit.
Sometimes it seems to me that my quest for truth in a relationship overshadows that foundational element of trust. After all, honesty and integrity are the two great pillars of western civilization, aren’t they? With truth comes justice and we exalt justice above most eveything. So let’s just cut to the bottom line and get to the truth, right?
But truth isn’t an end unto itself. Truth clears a path — certainly to action as Mr. Welch states — but also to additional trust. Trust allows people to come together and do things that no one person could do alone. Trust brings progress, spins off truth, and builds community.
On occasion, I have found myself looking back over a train-wreck of a relationship. I smile smugly hoping to believe that I was a “champion of truth” and that all other actions were justified. In other words, this mess at my feet it seems, was a tribute to my loss of sight of the possibilities of trust.
I wonder how much more good might have been done if I had invested as much in building trust as I did in extracting the truth.
For today, I will build trust by
- valuing relationships over my drive for truth.
- being transparent as an entree to confidence in relationship.
- being reliable — delivering on what I’ve promised in order to build value in relationship.
There’s so much more to this. Next time let’s explore those relationships where the other person contributes to the void in trust and what we might do to rebuild trust with, of all things, truth.