The Trust Formula: We Lead

This past summer, I participated in a discussion series on leadership. There were many memorable takeaways, but one in particular for me was the “trust formula,” which is: 

Trust = (Authenticity + Vulnerability) x Credibility

According to the presenter, good leadership involves trust, and trust includes being authentic, vulnerable, and credible. The presenter explained the most important component of the formula is credibility. Why, you ask? Because, like any math formula (math people, back me up here), if you multiply by zero, the result is zero. In the case of the trust formula, if you have zero credibility, you create zero trust.  

The session prompted me to think more about the components of the formula as they relate to my experiences and leaders in my life from past to present. This very simple formula was, in some sense, a piece to the puzzle of understanding some of the leaders I’ve experienced in my life. Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced some good and some bad leaders. Good leadership taught me to be myself, to support my team, to own my mistakes, to learn, and to listen.

Trusting a Teen Leader

Leading is an awesome responsibility especially when you think about the trust factor involved. Honestly, I never really thought of the connection between leadership and trust before, but it makes a lot of sense. I became a leader at an early age, so the very notion of someone trusting a then-teenager never crossed my mind. 

When I’m not working as CSA’s Director of Operations, I am a professional musician, more specifically, a church musician. I’ve been in leadership roles as a musician since I was 14 years old. My first time accompanying a choir, the conductor cued me to start the music; I was so focused on watching the conductor that I lost my place in the music and stopped playing, to which she very frantically began gesturing for me to start playing again. Even though I did recover eventually, I thought I failed. After the service, the conductor congratulated me for a “job well done” and offered some tips and tricks. She became my lifelong music mentor.

Looking back now, it was a tremendous responsibility for someone so young, and yet I am humbled to think that so many people deemed me credible enough to trust a teenager to lead in such a critical and integral element of the church services with music. Moreover, the conductor provided me with a very positive lesson in leadership through positive reinforcement and offering up some tricks of the trade, so to speak. As I continued my music passion by playing the organ, I eventually began to explore conducting as well.

I remember the pressure the first time I conducted—looking out and seeing all the singers and instrumentalists with their eyes glued on me for cues. It was a bit intimidating at first, but I eventually grew comfortable in that capacity as well. I share this because conducting is a great visual metaphor for leading: Long before you step up to the podium, you have to earn people’s trust, invest time into teaching and guiding them, listen to them, foster and develop their talent, and empower them to perform.

We Lead

Drawing of paper airplanes flying, with one leading the way

The value “We Lead” is defined as this: We value responsive leaders who make time and space for their employees and contractors and guide them toward growth. We recognize that leadership does not require a title. Our team members are empowered to make decisions and meet challenges head-on.

CSA invested a lot of time identifying and defining its core values, which was a collaborative effort that included staff members from every department and every level. We looked within ourselves to identify the very best characteristics of our company and teammates and over time, we were able to categorize those characteristics until our five core values revealed themselves.

Getting back to the trust formula, one of the ways we lead is to support and foster growth for our employees. The series on leadership was part of an employee learning platform (we named the platform Strive after one of our other core values) CSA provides. It’s one of the many ways CSA lives its core values. I consider myself very fortunate to be a member of the CSA team. Here, we embrace a culture that cares, welcomes, supports, strives, and leads. We live those values internally and externally every day with clients, freelancers, and vendors.