Trust and Communication in Leadership

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Jeffrey R. DiBiasi
  • 52nd Communications Squadron
I would contend that if you polled the most effective senior leaders today and asked them to convey the two most valuable factors in leadership, they would respond with trust and communication. After all, you cannot have effective communication without trust because without trust people tend to feel insecure and are uncertain about how to accomplish their particular mission.

There are several definitions for both trust and communication, but for brevity sake, let's use a U.S. Army definition of trust which is the confidence or belief a person has about a particular group and define communication as the exchange and flow of information from one person to another.

In my experience, people tend to gravitate toward leaders who communicate the "big picture." Communicating exactly where, as leaders, we want our organizations to grow and how we are going to get there lends perspective to those individuals we lead. It provides them with the sense that we are confident leaders because we can articulate our vision at a high-level, leaving the details for our people to fill in. This builds confidence and promotes the teamwork needed to accomplish the mission at hand.

Taking communication further, listening and giving feedback are essential. When we really listen to people we lead, we take the ideas they generate, add to their contribution with our own ideas, and then implement the joint solution. This truly makes the work environment a total team effort and promotes a bond beyond reproach. Furthermore, feedback enhances the communication process by ensuring the leader knows what his/her people want in terms of their personal feelings, emotions, and goals. Without constant feedback, leaders are lost, due to the fact that they do not have the pertinent information to grow the organization. At the end of the day, feedback is the "nutrient" that energizes the organization.

Trust is communicating to our people that, as leaders, they can count on us to do the right thing. By actions, leaders espouse doing the harder "right" instead of the easier "wrong." Leaders articulate that trust in respective organizations produces vital long-lasting satisfying, rewarding, and successful relationships in the organization. It is through trust that people will feel satisfied, and satisfied people enjoy their jobs, are not frustrated by problems and strive to accomplish any mission.

A very wise First Sergeant whom I had the pleasure of working with would always take the time to stop by the most recent Airman Leadership School class to provide mentoring to the students who were soon to become the Air Force's newest leaders. His comments to the young Airmen conveyed the importance of communication and trust in the workplace today. He would emphasize that communication is the responsibility of every member within an organization, and trust is something earned, not inherent with position.

This leader truly believed, as do I, that the effects of a good leader can be far-reaching, not only for the leaders, but for those they lead. With the numerous amount of challenges for Airmen today, effective leadership built upon a strong foundation of trust and communication may be the two factors that prevent our quality personnel from leaving the best Air Force in the world.