Are you a Trusted Leader?

Emerson said, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. Their character determines the character of the organization.” (today we would say “person” instead of man but the point remains the same) 

 

So how would you answer the following two questions? Are you the person in your organization that Emerson was talking about? If you are then is your integrity always above reproach? By the way, I should probably point out that you either have integrity all the time or you don’t have integrity at any time. Integrity is not a part time job.

     

If your integrity is indeed above reproach then you have the opportunity to lead others, really lead. Maybe before you answer those two questions you should consider a little research: Only 45% of 400 managers in a Carnegie-Mellon survey believed their top management was always truthful; a third distrusted their immediate bosses. Current research says that 85% of employees across all businesses and industries are actually demotivated by their “leader.” 

 

What does that survey have to do with you?  Maybe nothing, but maybe, just maybe, you could consider it a wake-up call. A call telling you that you must be especially diligent in making certain that you live by the high standards that you expect from those who you hope to lead. Perhaps the survey results can serve to remind you that you have to work every day to earn the trust and respect of your people. You should never lose awareness that your people are always watching to see if your words match your actions. 

     

Consider as well this fact: Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just an image! Before you answer the questions above, ask yourself these questions: Are you the same person no matter who you are with? Do you make decisions that are best for others when another choice would benefit you? Are you quick to recognize others for their efforts and contributions to your success? (In writing?) 

     

You see, image is what people think you are, integrity is what, and who, you really are. Asking yourself these three questions can help keep you on track and ensure that your image reflects who you truly are.

     

Here is one reason integrity is so important for a leader: Integrity has high influence value, if you have the ability to influence others than your ability to lead is unlimited. Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever. Effective leadership is not based on being clever; it is based on being consistent. No one can fool all of the people of all of the time, insincerity can’t be covered up. Leaders who are sincere don’t have to advertise the fact.

   

Integrity is a hard-won achievement, it takes a long time to establish it with your team and you never fully complete the task. Your team expects four things from you on a consistent basis: honesty, competence, vision and inspiration. Those areas all impact your integrity. 

     

Ask something who knows you well what areas of your life they see as consistent (you do what you say) and what areas they see as inconsistent (you say but don’t always live.) If you don’t like their answer remember, you can change, you can become the leader you want to be, but also remember, you will only become what you are becoming right now.

    

So, now it’s time. Go ahead, answer the two questions in the first paragraph and then do whatever it takes to be certain your answer is always, always, yes.

Invest in Trust

All leadership is based on trust. If someone doesn’t trust you they simply will not be committed to truly following you. They might comply with you, they may do what you tell them to do, they may even kind of like you but they will not commit to you.

 

Building trust takes time. When I hear someone say “you must earn the right to lead” what I really think they are saying is “you need to build some trust before anyone will actually follow you.”

     

Authentic leaders know that their title or position does little in the way of building trust. People don’t trust titles, they don’t trust positions, and they don’t trust names. People trust people.

     

Trust building must be intentional. It should happen every day. If you’re a leader, or someone in a leadership position, (of course you know that holding a leading position doesn’t mean you’re actually a leader) then you should be aware that your people are watching you. They want to see if your actions match your words. They want to see if you honor your commitments, and not just to them but to others as well. If they are going to trust you then they expect you to honor your commitments, period.

     

Every leader, every person really, has what I call a “credibility bank.” Every time we do what we say we will a small deposit is made into our bank. Every time we fail to do what we say we will do a large withdrawal is taken from our bank.

     

If that doesn’t seem fair get over it. Building trust takes time and real trust doesn’t come easy for most people. The next time you’re tempted to blow off a commitment just remember your credibility bank and maybe the temptation will pass.

     

If trust building must be intentional as I’ve already said it must, then how do you plan to go about it? Seriously, I’m suggesting to you that you don’t just let trust happen, don’t just assume that people trust you. I’m suggesting that you become intentional in building trust.

     

Take tons of notes about the commitments you’ve made, block time on your calendar to honor those commitments. Return phone calls, answer emails, if you say you’ll do something then by any and all means possible, do it! Always, every time, no exceptions and no excuses. 

     

Virtually everything you say and do sends you to your credibility bank, the only questions is; will you be making a deposit or withdrawal?


Think about that for a while and then get busy adding to your credibility bank!

The High Cost of Low Trust

Trust is hard to come by today. In the United States the two people who will compete for the Presidency this fall are the least trusted candidates ever to run for that high office. 

Laws are put in place basically to combat lack of trust. U.S. Federal regulations cost businesses the equivalent of a little more than 10% of the gross domestic product. Lack of trust is truly expensive.

When trust is low within an organization then every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is doubted, slowing things down and increasing costs. Some research shows that a lack of trust can as much as triple the time it takes to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Building trust and credibility should be a daily activity for all leaders. Just because you have trust today doesn’t mean you always will. Trust must be constantly nurtured. Assuming that you are trusted simply because you consider yourself trustworthy is an all too common mistake for leaders. 

There are many actions that a leader can take to build trust on a daily basis, here are just a few.

Be a straight talker. Use tact, be polite, and show compassion. But when something needs to be said then say it. Say it in a way that won’t be misunderstood. Ask a question or two to verify that the message you intended to convey is the message that was heard. Assume 100% responsibility for the effectiveness of your communications, after all, you have the audacity to call yourself a leader. So don’t make someone else responsible for understanding something you said.

Admit when you’re wrong. Leaders can be wrong, just like every other human being on earth. Dale Carnegie said, “when you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.” That is an important principle for leaders to keep in mind. Trying to hide a mistake is often a bigger mistake than the mistake you’re trying to hide.

Be trusting. If you want other people to trust you then you need to trust other people as well. I recently had a conversation with someone who told me that they would never “just trust” someone. They said that trust had to be earned. They said that they “tested” people by asking them to do little things, the kind of things that it didn’t really matter if they were done or not. The people were not told they were being tested with meaningless tasks. 

When I said it seemed to me that they might be deceiving people to determine if they were trustworthy I was told that “you can’t be honest with people you don’t trust.” That my friends is some messed up thinking and the kind of thinking that will certainly kill trust. 

The only honest way I know of to find out if someone is trustworthy is to trust them, really trust them. If you’re a leader and you want people to trust you then you must trust them first. It is called leading for a reason, you need to trust first.

Those are but a few of the many actions a leader must take daily to build trust. Clearly one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to assume they are trusted just because of their title or position. 

Actually, in today’s environment the opposite is more often true.