41337821_mThe other day, someone came up to me and asked me how I became successful in business and the nonprofit sectors. It could all be boiled down to one word – trust. A weak nonprofit or business leader may not recognize that there are a number of ways to earn and maintain the trust, or lose it quickly.

I don’t think there’s any magic DNA strand for success as a leader. It’s not that complicated. It’s simple, really. At the foundation, you’re either trusted or you’re not. Period. Business and nonprofit leaders who are successful know this and they personify trust.

But, trust does not only mean that you work in the interests of your partners, as well as your own. It also means that you can do something. It means that you can follow-through. These are all important elements of trust.

Trust in the Person

If you follow my blog, then you know I’ve been in sales most of my life. You also know that I believe we’re all in sales. I’ve written about this in the past and you can find that article here.

To be successful, people have to trust you as a person. They aren’t going to work with you or do business with you if they don’t trust you. You’re not going to get major donors giving thousand of dollars of your organization if they don’t trust you personally to be a good steward and leader.

You might be able to pull the wool over people’s eyes for a little, but besides lacking in integrity, that simply is not possible for long. People can spot a fake. People will initially have some “gut instinct” about you. Your actions will eventually betray you if you’re not a trust-worthy person or someone who means what he or she says.

Trust in the Abilities

Once you have gotten over the hurdle of you as a person, people will need to have trust in your abilities. Leaders are entrusted to lead. Managers are selected to manage at an efficient and effective level. And, workers are hired to do a job at a high level.

I think people are generally good and they want to trust in you and your abilities naturally. Oftentimes, people become leaders, managers or workers because they were initially liked and people think you can do the job. No one hires someone not wanting for him or her to be successful. Of course, you never really know until someone is actually doing the job.

But, particularly in business where it’s about money and goals, if people around you start getting a sense you can’t do the job, the trust is going to quickly evaporate. A learning curve is fine. Incompetence is not.

Trust in Words and Actions

Great leaders, managers and workers embody trust in their words and actions. With all of our just-in-time communication I think we’ve all got a lot of moments of “information overload”. Emails, meeting appointments and calls are happening at breakneck speeds.

But, the best leaders and workers understand that this it not an excuse. As a leader, people want to understand your vision. They want you to say it and paint the picture for them. They then want you to follow it up with decisive action.

There are plenty of organizations that talk a great game, maybe even a big game, but the actions are lacking. Nonprofit leaders have to understand when they join an organization that they set the tone in their first 90 days. You want to be sure to have it go in your favor. For starters leaders need to quickly develop the elements of trust.

And, when you’re setting the vision and the path forward, you need to be able to follow it up with consistent action. That’s success. Everything else stems from that value.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: The Rise and Fail of Charities And What You Can Do To Be Ready”.


© 2015 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.