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Seven Traits of a Trustworthy Leader

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David Carrington

By David Carrington

David Carrington
David Carrington (Provided photo)

In my 12 years of elected public service, I’ve worked with quite a few untrustworthy elected officials – some Republican; some Democrat – some black; some white – some young; some old; and some male; and some female.  Based on my first-hand experiences, I’ve defined seven characteristics of a trustworthy leader.

  • First, trustworthy leaders are grounded. They are principled – more like a tree with deep roots, than a leaf that blows in the wind.  I am reminded of the apostle Paul who said in 2 Timothy, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to take that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
  • Second, trustworthy leaders are prepared. They have previous experiences that make them ready to serve. I am reminded of David in the Old Testament, who spent countless hours alone in the fields protecting his family’s flock of sheep and practicing his slingshot skills for untold hours before having the courage to face the giant Goliath.
  • Third, trustworthy leaders are courageous. It takes a lot of courage to run for public office – but it takes even more courage to be willing to stand alone, like David did, when facing gigantic problems.   One of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, talks about the man in the arena, “who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
  • Fourth, trustworthy leaders are open. They are willing to listen to and learn from others.  I was honored to serve with former UAB president Dr. Scotty McCallum when he was mayor of Vestavia Hills.  I heard him say multiple times, by his words and actions, that he did not know the solution to a particular problem we faced, but he knew that someone in Vestavia did – and that it was his job to find that person (or persons) and get them involved.
  • Fifth, trustworthy leaders are just. They are fair and listen to both sides of an issue before making a decision.  They are not swayed by polls or campaign contributors – they do what’s right, regardless of the political consequences.  To quote the Reverend Martin Luther King, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • Sixth, trustworthy leaders are straightforward. They are direct, truthful and candid. They say what they mean and they mean what they say.  British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was well known for being straightforward – sometimes to a fault. It’s been reported that one time a female member of Parliament told Churchill, “Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more, you are disgustingly drunk.” To which Churchill straightforwardly replied, “My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”
  • And seventh, trustworthy leaders are decisive. To again quote President Teddy Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”    Indecisive leaders are not leaders at all – they are gutless pawns that can be easily neutralized.

With these characteristics in mind, I want to strongly encourage you to vote for those candidates whom you believe will be the most trustworthy, regardless of party, race, age or gender.

David Carrington is a member of the Jefferson County Commission