In leadership, its important to know the difference in popularity and trust.
I’ve seen leaders – whether pastors, politicians or in business – try to take people places, even worthy places, and believe people would follow because they are popular as a leader.
Yet people didn’t follow, because the leader hadn’t developed enough trust in the people he or she was trying to lead.
Misunderstanding this one principle can dramatically damage a leader’s performance. (This is especially true for newer leaders.)
Many leaders assume they are trusted because they are popular, but many times this is not the case. A leader may be very popular – people genuinely like the person – but this doesn’t always translate into trust.
People follow closest those they trust the most – not necessarily those they like the most.
Popularity has some importance in leadership. It is easier to follow a leader we like personally. But popularity may be seasonal and temporary. Popularity can be altered by current successes or disappointments. Popularity can cause followers to cheer or jeer, because whether it is good or bad, popularity is mostly built on people’s emotions.
Trust is what is needed for the biggest moments in leadership. Major changes depend upon trust. Times of uncertainty need established trust in leadership. Long-term success requires trust.
And trust must be earned. Popularity can happen with the next great thing the leader does. I used to say the pastor is only as good as their last good sermon. (And that is semi-true.)
Trust, however, develops with time and experience. Trust invokes a deeper level of loyalty and commitment which helps people weather the storms of life together. Trust develops roots in a relationship which grow far deeper than popularity ever could.
Leader, I encourage you to know the difference between popularity and trust. And to not confuse the two.
Here is something else to know. Popularity often disguises itself as trust when people appear to be agreeing with you. And it may fool you into thinking you can do anything, because you are, after all, popular. But, if you are not careful, you will cross a line of people’s level of trust and see a backlash towards your leadership.
It will make you a more effective leader – especially when it comes to leading change – when you can begin to discern when you are simply popular and when you are truly trusted.