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Beyond compliance (Part Two): How to be a trust-based leader

In Part One of this two-part series, I described the intersection of compliance, ethics, and trust. This post explores the steps necessary to move from a compliance-only strategy to one that embraces ethics and trust.

In the words of Peter Drucker, “the enterprise must have simple, clear, and unifying objectives.”

Moving towards trust requires the following organizational mindset:

  • The board of directors, then the CEO with C-suite support must acknowledge and embrace the importance of building trust. The business case has been made but the vast majority of organizations continue to ignore it.
  • Building trust is a long-term strategy that may have a short-term negative impact on earnings.
  • Trust, as a business strategy requires a certain mindset and “type” of CEO, and a Board that supports this, not only through “talk” but also through action.
  • And perhaps most importantly, building trust cannot be delegated.

A trust-based leader then commits to organizational trust as a unifying business strategy by regularly communicating the values and culture.

Mandating and ensuring that those values are meeting the long-term needs of all internal and external stakeholders and across all silos — shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, community, etc. Always “walking the talk.”

To foster trust, the trust-based leader must then practice it by:

  • Losing the crisis mindset and the “win at all costs” mentality; and refocusing from shareholders to stakeholders.
  • Breaking down silos by placing “trust” in the center of the business strategy.
  • Hiring according to the organization’s culture and values, and firing for the same reasons.
  • Exploring the myriad of tools available to build organizational trust.
  • Following the “Golden Rule” by treating others the way you want to be treated, becoming accessible and showing vulnerability.
  • Being transparent and always telling the truth even if it has a short-term negative impact on the organization.
  • Placing trust “front and center” in every internal and external conversation.
  • Setting two or three annual trust goals and communicating how they will be met.
  • Considering hiring a Chief Trust Officer to occupy the office next door.
  • Displaying excellence always. Nothing speaks “trust” and ethics louder than character, competence and consistency, sprinkled with a bit of generosity!
  • Sitting back and watching profits soar.

As Richard Branson, author and founder of the Virgin Group has said, “The most valuable business commodity is trust. There is simply no point in talking about trust if it is not followed by action.”

*     *     *

My thanks to the many FCPA Blog readers who have left comments to Part One of this series. I appreciate hearing from such engaged and thoughtful readers. I’ll answer the comments in a subsequent post on the FCPA Blog.


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO & Co-founder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World (here), whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She’s also the editor of the Trust Inc. book series and the Executive Editor of Trust! Magazine.

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