Leadership, Trust, and Politics


Whether we know it or not and whether we would like to admit it or not, we are all involved in politics to some degree. In a traditional sense, a politician is simply a person who is professionally involved in the activities associated with any type of leadership. This includes the debate or conflict among individuals having or hoping to achieve influence. On the other hand, even if we seek to avoid politics, we must admit that the rest of us are usually at least impacted or influenced by those who are actively politicking. It is inescapable.

For example, when we are at our jobs, we are paid for our participation and efforts toward achieving organizational goals, missions, and visions. And most of us are either proactively involved or directly impacted by the organization’s leadership and hierarchical players. Furthermore, many of us are involved in debate or conflict with co-workers from time to time, and this is especially true when ideas are being discussed, when plans are being hashed out, when decisions are being made, or when members are fighting for a promotion or any number of other situations.

We must concede to this reality if we want to appreciate just how much trust, or a lack thereof, truly affects the politics and your ability to influence within the organization. Politics, trust, truth, and influence are all attached at the hip. Remember that trust is the firm belief in the reliability and truth of someone or something. If you are not reliable, you will likely not be relied upon. Your words and positions will often be doubted or ignored if you are not truthful. These ideas have a direct impact on your ability to influence.

We must also remember that there are limitations to power and position. This is why strategic-oriented leaders often rely on influence. Trust is the key. For example, if you cannot trust someone, you will doubt the truth of what they say and the reasons why they are saying it. This creates a problem regarding information exchange and credibility regarding that information.

Furthermore, you would likely want to disassociate yourself from someone who wasn’t truthful due to guilt by association. From an organizational standpoint, this creates a problem concerning potential teams and cooperatives. As a result, followership and success would be harder to come by in these scenarios.

From a leadership standpoint, we know that a leader must be trusted and must trust their people. Being trustworthy and truthful allows this to occur. Generally speaking, the untrustworthy wields far less (if any) influence. Without trust, your words will fall on deaf ears, your input will mean little, and you will become the tolerated one, if not the terminated one. It’s rather simple. You wouldn’t promote someone you couldn’t trust, you wouldn’t share sensitive materials with someone you couldn’t trust, you wouldn’t follow someone you couldn’t trust, and you surely wouldn’t want to work next to someone you couldn’t trust.

Now, this isn’t to say that everyone needs to like you because they don’t. Whether someone likes you or not is entirely irrelevant when it comes to trust and truth. And this brings us to arguably the most important benefit of trust and being trustworthy. Trust affords the un-liked the gift of respect. If you are truthful and you politic with integrity, while others may not like your plans, words, positions, etc., they will appreciate and respect your truthfulness. They will trust that you are operating with integrity. I believe this affords you an ongoing strategic opportunity regarding consideration. Again, they may disagree, but if they trust you, respect you, and know you speak the truth, they will be more likely to at least consider what you have to say.

Yes, trust, or a lack thereof, directly affects the politics within any organization, which is true from the bottom to the top. This is because trust directly connects with truth, and truth is directly associated with positive influence. Act accordingly.

Did you enjoy this brief article? You might also like “The Effects of Bias Affecting Leadership.”