Of all the things a person needs to be an Authentic Leader none is more important than the trust of the people they lead. They actually cannot lead anyone who doesn’t have a high level of trust in them.
That’s because a sign that someone is an Authentic Follower is a commitment to the leader. Human beings don’t have the emotional ability to commit to someone they do not trust.
People follow a leader for what the leader does for them and the organization. When they see a leader who makes decisions solely, or even mostly, for their own benefit then the trust erodes quickly. What many people in leadership positions fail to understand is that they are under a microscope and it’s the people they are trying to lead who are looking at them through that microscope. They need to know if they can trust their leader.
They listen to what the leader says and look even closer at what they do. When the words and actions don’t align the perceived integrity of the leader takes a dive and trust goes with it.
Authentic Leaders intentionally work to earn the trust of their people. They also demonstrate that they trust their people.
What many people in leadership positions forget is that trust is a two-way street. While they want and often even expect their people to trust them they are less than willing to return that trust to their people.
Most of the time people won’t explicitly tell someone they are trusted. So people generally go with their feelings. We can “just kinda tell” whether someone trusts us or not. We look for “signs” that indicate we are trusted. Things like being allowed to make decisions, call an audible on a decision that had already been made, or perhaps even work from home on occasion.
When people are not allowed to make the most basic decision without running it past their manager (notice I didn’t say leader because leaders don’t operate this way) they feel as if they are not trusted. People who are micro-managed don’t feel trusted. People who must document every minute of their day don’t feel trusted.
When people feel as if their manager or leader does not trust them then they will not trust their leader. It’s almost impossible to trust someone who doesn’t trust you. Absent that trust there can be no commitment. Absent that commitment there can be no Authentic Followership. Absent that followership there is no Authentic Leadership.
You may call yourself a leader, you may hold a leadership position, you may have a big important title but if no one is following then you aren’t leading.
If you cannot trust your people then you should have no expectation that they will trust you. If you cannot trust your people then maybe you’ve hired the wrong people. It‘s also possible that you’ve not yet earned the right to lead.
Either way, when trust is gone so is the basic element required for a committed relationship between a leader and their people. Building trust requires effort. It requires time. It requires consistently doing what you say you will when you say you will do it.
If you’re not willing to put in the time and make the effort then you will always struggle as a leader and your people will always struggle to follow you.