People Really Do Follow the Leader

Follow the leader isn’t just a children’s game. It’s a fact of life.

People really do follow the leader. They do what the leader does. They behave as the leader behaves. They act the way the leader acts.

They don’t very often do what the leader says, unless of course what the leader says is the same thing the leader does. As a leader, who you are makes a difference. The most important message you can share is yourself. Your people watch you constantly, they are watching to determine if you’re the type of leader they can trust. 

Here’s the most basic leadership equation of all: trust = follower-ship. Where there is no trust there can be no true following. True following comes from commitment and while a leader’s position may get them the compliance of their people only trust can earn commitment.

If a leader isn’t trusted by their people then don’t be surprised when the people aren’t trusted by the leader. People really do follow the leader.

Everything a leader says and does either adds to or subtracts from their “credibility bank.” Almost nothing is credibility neutral, everything matters. Authentic leaders know that and work to make certain that their words match their actions as much as possible. 

Let me say this as clearly as I can; if your credibility sinks low enough you may have a title or position of leadership but you’re not leading anymore. You can’t be leading because people can’t follow a leader with low credibility. If you have no followers then you’re not leading no matter what your business card might say.

People do follow the leader but only if that leader is a person they can trust. If you can’t pass the trust test then all your leadership efforts will come up short. Your vision will never be realized, your influence will be limited, and your success will be in doubt. 

If you want to be a leader that people will follow then don’t work for a position or title that people will “have to” follow. Instead work to become the type of person they will want to follow. 

Be the type of person they can trust! 

Does Trust Really Matter?

I was asked by a friend of mine, someone recently promoted to a leadership position, just how much trust mattered in a leadership role.

For those of you who read this blog often my answer may surprise you.

I said it depends. I believe that’s true. 

It depends on whether you merely want to occupy a leadership position or if you really want to lead. 

You can manage your way through a leadership position and keep the organizational ship afloat. You can keep the organization together and depending on what your competition does, you may even slowly grow it.

If however, your goal is to actually lead, to make a difference in the lives of your people and truly grow and strengthen your organization, then you must lead. If you want to lead then trust is absolutely vital. Absent trust, there simply is no leadership. 

Here’s why.

To grow any type of organization you must grow it’s people. Better computers, a better process, and better systems will all help you sustain a business. If you want to grow it you’ll need better people. People get better when a leader helps them get better.

A leader can’t help their people until their people trust them enough to try new things.

Let me give you an example. I once worked for a guy who on his first day said he would much prefer that his people make a wrong decision rather than no decision at all. He promised that he wouldn’t be upset with a bad decision and he would help his people work through it.

Now I have no way of knowing if he actually meant that when he said it but the first person who made a bad decision was just hammered by this guy. No one trusted him again. All risk taking stopped, all decision making stopped, all commitment stopped, and nearly all growth stopped along with it. 

This guy was smart, he was well educated and he knew the business inside and out. He also greatly underestimated the importance of trust and it’s role in earning the commitment of his people. Despite his education, his experience, and his knowledge of the business he failed in his leadership role. The lack of trust, as much as any other single thing, did him in.

Here is an absolute leadership fact: if your people can’t trust you then your people can’t follow you. 

If they can’t follow you they can’t commit to you. If you don’t have their commitment then your influence with them will be great reduced. With reduced influence comes a reduced ability to lead.

Trust is the foundation of leadership. You can build your leadership with all the proper skills, tools and techniques but without a foundation of trust, your leadership will fail.

So, what do you think, does trust really matter to a leader? 

Trust is a Mighty Big Word

Trust 1Trust is the stuff that holds people together. It protects us from all sorts of daily calamities and allows us to move forward without always having to look over our shoulders.  If we can’t trust the people closest to us, family, friends and co-workers then it becomes almost impossible to lead a satisfying life. Trust isn’t just another word, it’s not an idealistic goal which can’t be obtained in “real life.” Trust – or a lack of it – matters and it matters in everything we do and say.

If people are to have healthy relationships, trust must be more than something that is talked about; it must be at the center of everything they do. In business it’s trust that make the “relationship” in a business relationship possible.

Trust is the foundation of all effective leadership; if your people can’t trust you they absolutely will not follow you. They may give the appearance of following you but real trust will take the leader/follower relationship past appearances into true commitment. When your people are committed to you great stuff happens. Morale improves, problems are solved, productivity increases and more leaders are developed.

You can buy yourself a dog but you must earn the wag of its tail. It’s the same with trust, a leader can hire, pay and promote an employee but the trust must still be earned. It must be earned and re-earned every day. When a leader violates the trust of their people the fabric of the organization becomes torn and over time, often very little time, the morale of the organization erodes away.

When a leader does what they say they will, credibility follows.  When credibility is present, integrity can grow. When integrity grows, trust flourishes.

Effective leaders don’t let trust happen, they make trust happen. They proactively demonstrate trust by making certain that their words match their actions. They hold themselves to a higher standard than others; quickly admitting to a mistake and accepting often more than the responsibility due.

Effective leaders know they don’t earn trust by leading, they must earn the trust before they can lead. Effective leaders trust others and show it by giving them the opportunity to succeed.

What have you done in the past 30 days to earn the trust of those you would lead? It’s a question that great leaders ask themselves and ask themselves often. So…..