Trustworthy leaders — in some areas I have worked, that phrase is an oxymoron. It’s obvious when workers don’t trust their leaders and the environment can become toxic. As Warren Buffett once said, “Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. When it’s absent, everybody notices.”
In my career, there have been too few shining examples of men and women who care to lead and encourage their staff down the right path. Not just for their own success, but because they truly care about their people.
Talking to friends about how bad or (that rare breed) good their leaders are, I’ve pondered what truly makes a leader trustworthy. This isn’t a topic discussed in more corporate training sessions or business schools. Since I want positive examples to emulate, I’ve read numerous texts and memoirs about respected leaders from all walks of life. These included tomes on leaders from:
- business (Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Lou Gerstner),
- politics (Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Bill Clinton, Rudy Giuliani),
- military (Colin Powell),
- coaching (Pat Riley, John Wooden),
- history (George Washington and Catherine the Great),
and many more in these and other categories. I’ve also listened to countless speeches from”leaders” who believe they are spurring on their followers.
I’ve come up with the following attributes to adopt and help me be recognized as a trustworthy leader:
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
If you say you are going to do something, do it. Conversely, be careful not to commit to things if you aren’t sure you can do them.
Whether you answer yes or no,make sure they know why.
Being truly trustworthy is saying Yes or No for the right reasons and making sure your staff understands why.If your answer will be received as bad news or will disappoint, being forthright builds trust.
Trusting your staff boosts their trust in you.
A trustworthy leader operates on the premise that their people want to and will do the right thing. So, they give them room (trust) that they will success without micromanaging their activities or second-guessing.
Be flexible and accept change.
Leaders who are adaptable to new ideas and accept change easily are less likely to be seen as irrational, old-fashioned roadblocks.They will be seen as approachable and open to ideas, thereby encouraging staff to trust their instincts.
Avoid showing your dark side.
People need to be able to trust how you will act in a given situation. People don’t trust leaders who are capricious or moody; they never know what to expect from one day to the next.
Be firm but fair.
Don’t hold others to standards that you don’t uphold. If you insist on firm deadlines or punctuality, set that expectation for everyone in your organization. But, conversely, make sure that your standards make sense. Making everyone stay till 5 pm on a holiday weekend when nothing is getting one may honor your work schedule, but letting everyone go early is fair and a crowd pleaser.
Demonstrate that you get results and are part of the team too.
Nothing kills morale more than a boss who does little but is widely recognized for his teams’ accomplishments. Give credit where do and make sure you have an actual role in the success if you want credit for it.