What the Sheriff Taught Me About Trust

It has saved my career

When I was 21, I was sworn in as Deputy Sheriff at a mid-sized Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky. At the time, I was a young kid who did not see everything for what it was worth. That day, the Sheriff took me into the office and shared three key things to me about a long and successful career. Two of those items were dead on, but this isn’t the place for them. The third truth he told me has shaped me every step of the way.

Personal Experience

One thing I’ve learned about life at 21 is that young people are impressionable by those who came before them. They want to fit into the crowd and I was no different. Thankfully on that September day, the Sheriff took the time to talk to me about how important trust is to a positive reputation.

Let me be the first to say, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and even went against the Sheriff’s advice along the journey. Thankfully they have all be recoverable, but took many painful days, weeks, months, and even years to fully regain. It takes the long term to prove to people a decision made in a stupid moment is not who you really are. That is why trust is so crucial.

Trust is…

As a leader, you will be under greater scrutiny. Many people will be looking for a moment of weakness. Some so they can bask in your failure, while others may be jealous. First and foremost, you have to show your people that you are a human and admit when you make mistakes. They will be more forgiving when you honestly come to them and apologize.

So what did the Sheriff teach me? In his infinite wisdom, the Sheriff saw a young kid and said “Josh, you will spend the first three years building a reputation that will carry you through the rest of your career. Start off strong and develop good work ethic and you will have an easier career than most. But start off lazy and be seen as questionable and no matter how hard you work at it for the next 17 years, you will be facing an uphill battle.” Easy right?

Well, then he said the thing that really stuck with me. He said “Josh, you can have a stellar 30-year career and make a huge mistake your last day that will forever tarnish your reputation.” Wow! Talk about something to take in.

Leadership is very similar. You must earn the trust of your people to be respected. To have influence, you typically need people’s respect. See the correlation? So why is it that so many leaders forget that trust is crucial to leading? I know in my career I have been lied to by “leaders” time and time again in many different organizations. Trust is a lot like a fraying rope, each strand that breaks makes it weaker. You must protect it or one day it will break…

Remember, great leaders have values. We are all adults, let’s work together and build a dynamic team on trust and respect. Imagine how we could change the world…


Question: What about you? What has a boss done to you that lost your trust in them? Did they earn it back? Could they have earned it back? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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