Over the past 10 years I have had the privilege of working with over 3,500 leaders talking about effective leadership and finding out what some of the attributes, characteristics and behaviours are that we appreciate in people who lead us.
I am sure it is no surprise that the most consistent word people mention is TRUST; it is such a simple word and at the same time our individual understanding of what this means for each of us is more complex than we tend to consider.
We are acutely aware of when trust is present and when it is not, it goes far beyond the words that we or our leaders use; it is an in body experience, a gut feeling and intuition we come to rely upon. To my mind one of the mistakes we make as leaders is not to fully understand what this most important yet simple word means to us personally and to those we choose to lead or influence.
Take a moment to reflect on what trust means to you; when is it present and when is it not? What makes that true for you? How many of you reading this believe that trust is earned? How many of you believe that trust is given? If you believe the trust is earned how many people have you explicitly explained how to gain your trust? For those of you who believe the trust is given, how many of your people have you explicitly explained how they might break your trust?
In my mind one of the most important things we should do as a leader is to ensure that we have explicit and up-to-date psychological contracts in place with the people we are working with. Included in that ‘contract’ should be a common understanding of how to build and or break trust to ensure that there is no hidden meaning or understanding between the leader, the people that choose to follow him/her and the people whose job it is for the leader to influence.
For many people the word trust extends to our leader’s ability to trust us with the work we are asked to do and at the same time to ‘have my back’ when challenging us to be the best we can be. We need to trust our leader’s vision, direction and strategy so that we can bring all of our resources to bear in achieving our common goals.
Our invitation to for you is to stop and reflect on how you build trust with those around you, what specifically have you done to ensure the people fully understand how to build and break trust with you, what have you done to ensure that you fully understand the expectations of the people you lead and influence around you?
The following quotations might be useful to reflect upon;
“Do not make loose promises. But when you make a promise, keep it. Be true to yourself. Be dependable. What you have to do , do it the very best you can. It is not the fuss and feathers that count; it is the hard steady effort that makes the grade.”
John Andreas Widtsoe
“In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”
Here is to being both trustworthy and trusting of the people we lead, by embodying our own trustworthiness we will live one of the most important aspects of leadership.