Good Leaders Know the Difference Between Popularity and Trust

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You will be a more effective leader when you can begin to discern when you are popular and when you are trusted.

In leadership, it's important to know the difference between popularity and trust. 

I’ve seen leaders—whether pastors, politicians or in business—try to take people places… even worthy places… and believe that people would follow because they are popular as a leader. But, people didn’t follow because the leader hadn’t developed enough trust. Misunderstanding this 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 that is many times not the case. The leader may be very popular, but that doesn’t always translate into trust.

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 involve trust. Times of uncertainty need established trust in leadership. Long term success requires trust. And, trust must be earned. Trust develops with time and experience. Trust invokes a deeper level of loyalty and commitment that helps people weather the storms of life together. Trust develops roots in a relationship that grow far deeper than popularity ever could.

Leader, know the difference and don’t confuse the two. 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.

You will be a more effective leader when you can begin to discern when you are popular and when you are trusted.

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