There’s plenty heavy-duty academic research — which I’m sure you can back up from personal experience and common sense — documenting that the essential prerequisite of leadership is trust. It seems so self-evident, doesn’t it? We follow people we trust.

Here’s an excerpt from some homework reading I’ve been doing for my ‘day job’, which involves advising large nonprofits and charities (via a blog) on how to achieve their missions. It’s from an article about leadership in the current Harvard Business Review.

“In management settings, trust increases information sharing, openness, fluidity, and cooperation. If coworkers can be trusted to do the right thing and live up to their commitments, planning, coordination, and execution are much easier. Trust also facilitates the exchange and acceptance of ideas—it allows people to hear others’ message—and boosts the quantity and quality of the ideas that are produced within an organization. Most important, trust provides the opportunity to change people’s attitudes and beliefs, not just their outward behavior.”

Trust precedes acceptance.

Apply that principle to the local elections now upon us and the choices we will soon make about who will lead us and who we will follow.

Hugely important ‘fork in the road’ decisions are upon us in Hawke’s Bay, especially with regard to ‘getting right’ an approach that lets us pursue greater prosperity for all while protecting the environment we all enjoy and value. That’s the real issue behind the struggles over dams, water management, GMOs and oil and gas development.

And since not everyone can personally do the homework to understand the details of these complex issues, we need to decide who we trust to do that homework on our behalf, while engaging us as meaningfully as we wish in the process.

Who do we trust to ‘get it right’?

That’s what elections — especially local ones, where we can get up close to the candidates if we care to — are really about … taking the measure of individual ‘contestants’ and deciding which ones we will entrust with the keys to the car, while we climb in the back seat.

So yes, ‘positions’ do matter, and later tonight I will be filling out my issues questionnaire from HB Today — yes or no on amalgamation, fluoride, the dam, and fracking. But arguably what is most important is how one arrives at those positions — Do they listen? To whom? Do they probe? Do they show common sense? Are they open to new ideas? Do they seek independent advice and experience? What underlying values do they reveal in the process?

Today I would suggest that there’s a mighty heap of distrust of our official authoritative voices on these issues. That’s certainly true of our current Regional Council, which struggles to find any constituency that trusts it.

As a candidate for the Regional Council, I’m asking people for their votes in this election. My positions are pretty well known; certainly to the readers of this blog.

But I know that whatever my positions are on all the hot button issues, I won’t get their votes unless they trust me.

It shouldn’t be any other way.

Tom Belford

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  1. Congratulations Tom on a great article, it really is that simple, but then appreciating the issues are very complex!!

  2. who do we trust? A hard one Tom as from past experience like saving the Ahuriri Estuary from a Marina and ,Ocean Beach, both promoted by development greed, again ” who do we trust”.?
    If we have misgivings the best we can achieve is to “slow the process down’ until wider experience prevails,
    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that count ?
    The Napier City Council Mission Statement reads.”Napier is the best provincial city in New Zealand in which to raise a family”
    From a question put our Mayoral aspirants,it seems our well off citizens are well pleased with Napier, as the best provincial city to raise family however the NCC itself has no social indicators for all its citizens to “buy into ” towards improving the quality of life for all its citizens ” Who do we trust “?

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