When Trust is Gone

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. 

Characteristics of Great Followers – Part Two of Two

Most Great Leaders I’ve known were once great followers. Many still are from time to time. The skills and characteristics of great followers are in many respects similar to the characteristics you’ll see in Authentic Leaders. 

In our last post we discussed characteristics possessed by great followers. This post will address 4 additional characteristics vital for genuine Followership. 

Great followers are prepared when they request the time of their leader. They know the information they need and they know the questions they need to ask to discover that information. They anticipate the questions their leader may ask of them and they are prepared to answer them. They don’t merely bring problems to their leader, they also bring possible solutions…if they haven’t already taken the initiative to handle the problems themselves. 

People who follow well don’t say yes when the answer needs to be no. They know when to push back on the leader and when to back off. They share the unvarnished truth with their leader at all times. They aren’t afraid to point out the flaws in a leader’s thinking but they do it in a thoughtful and compassionate way. They will hold their leader accountable for the things they say and do. If that surprises you then you need to know that in the strongest organizations accountability is a two-way street. 

Great followers will be better tomorrow than they are today. They seize every opportunity to learn and train themselves for success. They don’t wait to be “forced” into training. They try new things and you’ll never hear “because we’ve always done it that way” from them. They know what works and why. They know what doesn’t work and why. Great followers know that the minute they stop learning they stop growing. Great followers are always open to trying something new.

You’ll know you’re dealing with a great follower when you see someone who is willing to invest in relationships with almost anyone. They realize the value in different viewpoints and are willing to work with the best idea even if it isn’t theirs. Similar to Authentic Leaders, great followers come from great people. 

Whether you choose to be a leader or a follower you still need to make a commitment to be the best leader or follower you can be. Whether you decide to lead or follow you still have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. 

We know leaders can make a difference but you need to know YOU can too, even as a follower. The only question is…will you?

Well?

Characteristics of Great Followers – Part One of Two

Much has been written about the characteristics of great leaders. A bunch of it has been written by me but I thought it might be worth the effort to look at leadership from a different perspective. The perspective of followership.

What exactly are the characteristics of someone who is a great follower? Some of you are likely  wondering why anyone would aspire to be a great follower. It seems almost like a given that the goal should be to leave the ranks of followers to assume a role of leadership. 

But that’s not always the case. It is not even close. Many people do not want to be in a position of leadership. They are fulfilled being more of a doer and have no aspirations to lead. 

That’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s absolutely necessary. Let’s face it, they are called “doers” for a reason. They get stuff done. Not that leaders don’t but the heavy lifting, the majority of the things that must be done are done by followers, not leaders. 

Any leader who believes otherwise is a very limited leader. They are not being honest with themselves which will make it very difficult for them to be honest with anyone. 

In reality followers are also leaders. That’s why the first characteristic of a great follower is that they lead themselves exceptionally well. They honor their commitments. They maintain a positive attitude and try hard to always give their best effort. They show respect for others. They highly value time and demonstrate their respect of other people’s time with their punctuality. 

They don’t make extra work for their leader. In fact, they try to take some of the workload off of them. That’s the second characteristic of great followers, they lighten the load of others. They do not do it at the expense of their own workload. They efficiently complete their own work and only then look for ways to help their leader and co-workers finish theirs. 

Great followers possess the characteristic of doing what others won’t. They don’t shy away from the tough jobs or trying something new. You’ll seldom hear a complaint from a great follower when they are asked to do something that others are unwilling to do. They see being asked to tackle a tough job as a compliment and recognition of their abilities. They get the job done, no matter the job they were given to do. 

Authentic Leaders help ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. Great followers can accomplish those extraordinary things with a minimum of leadership. Every leaders needs as many great followers as they can get. They understand that their success is dependent upon the success of their followers. When they have several great followers they can focus more of their attention on the people who need it most. 

In our next post we’ll look at a few more characteristics of great followers. If you’re currently in a “followership” position and aspire to one of leadership then you should know that all great leaders were once great followers. Your best hope of earning a position of leadership is to first develop yourself into the very best follower you can be. 

Not Every Leader Leads – Part Two

In my last post we talked about following an ineffective leader. We also discussed working through the frustration that comes with that situation. 

 

If you can manage to work through the frustration and lead yourself you are way ahead of most people. Too many people spend their days wallowing in their lack of leadership. They should be focused on leading themselves to success. 

 

If you have the leadership skills to deal with the frustration of following a leader who doesn’t lead then it’s likely you also have the leadership skills to “lead up” in your organization.

 

Leading up is the second part of the process for overcoming the lack of leadership when you’re working with a leader who doesn’t lead. Here’s the thing about “leading up” in your organization; while it is absolutely necessary when your leader isn’t leading it is also beneficial when your leader is already an effective leader.

 

If you’re a leader at any level in your organization then you should be adding value to everything and everyone you have contact with. I know it can seem counterintuitive to help people succeed at some cost to your own success but that’s Authentic Leadership. If you can help anyone then you should help them. It is the right thing to do. While it may feel as if you’re potentially costing yourself a promotion or raise by helping other people look good you’re not.  

 

Doing the right thing is never wrong. 

 

So, let’s talk about the “how to” of leading up. First before you can lead anyone else you must lead yourself. Allowing the frustrations of your position or job to dominate your thoughts and actions is not leading yourself. 

 

You must maintain control over your emotions because failing to do so will have a huge negative affect over your attitude. When it comes to influencing those around you, especially those above you in your organization, attitude is everything. If you can’t control your emotions then you won’t control your attitude. 

 

To lead up in your organization you need to remove as much work as possible from your leader. That will inevitably mean doing more than what’s in your job description. It will frequently mean doing it will little or no recognition, at least for you. Trust the fact that someone notices your effort. Even in the very unlikely event that no one does you can take pride in your efforts because you will have done what’s right. 

 

Leading up requires that you have the ability to say no to your leader. Whether your leader is an effective leader or something less than effective they need someone in their sphere of influence who has the courage to tell them the truth. Sometimes that will mean telling them what they don’t what to hear. If you’re going to lead up you’ll need to find a tactful way to do that. 

 

Leading up also means doing the things that others are unwilling to do. Anyone can do the easy stuff; leaders who lead up tackle the tough jobs that other people avoid. Making a difference for the people above you, or anywhere in your organization, will sometimes mean sacrificing your personal objectives for the sake of others. It may mean working with people you would prefer not to work with. But leading up teaches you tenacity and resiliency that people unwilling to lead up with never know. 

 

The reality is that there are people in leadership positions all around the world who don’t actually lead. If you find yourself being “led” by one of those don’t allow your attitude to be impacted by the lack of leadership.

 

Choose to control your emotions. Choose to lead up in your organization. Make the choice to have a positive impact on those who could have a negative impact on you. 


All is takes is a decision to LeadToday!


Authentic Followership

Your title may sound impressive. Your title may come with a substantial income. Your title may gain you entry into elite places and even get you VIP treatment in some of those places. 

 

But what your title doesn’t do is make you a leader. 

 

All the same things can be said about the position you hold within your organization. Even positions at the very top of an organization aren’t truly leadership positions unless the person who occupies the position makes the effort required to lead. 

 

People don’t follow positions or titles. People follow people. 

 

The absolute number one leadership mistake a person can make is believing that their title or position makes them a leader. Titles and positions can make you a boss but only authentic followers can make you a leader. 

 

What I mean by “authentic follower” is a person who is committed to you personally. They realize that you care about them and have their interests in mind with just about every decision you make. 

 

An inauthentic follower is someone below or behind you in the organization that “complies” with your directives. They only comply because they fear the consequences if they don’t. You might believe they are following but when you need them you turn around and see that they aren’t really there.

 

If you’re someone who has the audacity to label themselves a leader then their lack of commitment is on you, not them. Perhaps you believed they “had” to follow you because you hold a position above them in the organization. 

 

That belief is likely the second biggest leadership mistake a person can make. NO ONE can be forced to follow you. Authentic Followership requires a commitment on the part of the follower AND the leader. You can’t force anyone to commit to you. 

 

If you want Authentic Followership then you’ll need to practice Authentic Leadership. That means demonstrating that you care about your people. That means keeping your lines of communication open and crystal clear. It means understanding that you’re responsible not only for your own success but for the success of the people you lead as well.

 

If you’re an Authentic Leader you’re even more excited when one of your followers excel than you are when you excel yourself. If you’re an Authentic Leader you have a vision to share with potential followers. That vision includes benefits for those who become Authentic Followers. 

 

If you’re an Authentic Leader there is little doubt that you have Authentic Followers. When you count on your title or position to earn you followers then it may appear as if you’re leading but when you turn around you’ll see there is nobody there.


If you’re wondering if you’re an Authentic Leader there is an easy way to find out….ask the people you think are following you. If they struggle to provide you with ready answers then it’s likely you have some work left to do. You will need to change your ways if you want to add Authentic Leader to whatever title you’ve been using to gain the compliance of your people.