The most expensive thing in the world is trust. It can take years to earn and just a matter of seconds to lose. – Anonymous
Let’s start with the big question, the question that has launched a thousand books and thousands or articles – what is leadership? Is it service, influence, vision, relationship? Probably a smidge of all of the above and more. With so many definitions of leadership floating around, it’s easy to be confused as to what it means to lead. One article identified over 2300 articles on leadership with a staggering 1000+ potential definitions. So, it’s safe to say that leadership is more easily recognized than defined. You have experienced great leadership. You remember the bosses you connected with, the leaders that believed in you and inspired you? You probably remember the other ones too. But can you tell what made the great ones great? Why would you walk over hot coals for one boss but not another?
One answer is that you trusted the boss you connected with. When you trust someone you give them the benefit of the doubt. You will follow them even when you can’t quite make out where they are going because you trust they know where they are going.
Trust is a byproduct of time and experience. People won’t trust you immediately, you have to earn their trust. Yet, trust is essential for leadership. In the absence of trust, leadership is difficult at best. Let’s look at 5 ways you can build trust in your leadership.
1. Trust Others
Who likes a micromanager? Who likes to be controlled? Do you do your best work under these circumstances? Probably not. Trust is a two-way street, if you want to be trusted you must be trusting. By trusting your associates to get their work done with minimal direction, you are validating their competence and creating an environment of trust. In this way, you are modeling what you are trying to manifest. [tweet “Model what you want to manifest.”]Assume your people can do their jobs. Assign the task, then back off. Let them wrestle with the details and ask for help. Expect the best and you will get it. Believe in your people. Encourage them. Trust them.
2. Be Patient
As a leader, manager or supervisor it’s difficult when someone on your team lets you down. But it is not the end of the world. Mistakes happen, even big mistakes. The best education may come on the other side of failure. How you handle the failures will determine if your people can or will trust you. Deal with the person and the mistake separately. The person needs reassurance and guidance and to identify the lesson they just learned. The mistake needs fixing. See the difference. Fix the problem without destroying the person. [tweet “Fix problems without destroying people.”] Remember, the person is more important than the mistake. Here’s where the golden rule comes into play. How would you want to be treated after an embarrassing public mistake? How would you respond to the leader who dealt with you patiently or harshly? Be Patient.
3. Be Consistent
Consistency is critical to your success in anything and especially leading people. Be the same person day in and day out. Your people are watching you everyday. They are observing your walk to see if it matches your talk. If you are a “do as I say, not as I do” leader you are shooting yourself in the foot. Consistency means you are predictable, in a good way. It is impossible to trust and difficult to follow someone who’s position changes with the prevailing political winds. Be consistent.
4. Be Ethical
Ethics has to do with your moral compass. Are you going to do what is right or what is expedient? Are you a save-your-own-neck sort of leader or are you a captain-goes-down-with-the-ship type of leader? Functioning ethically means you don’t take short cuts, take credit for the work of others, cut corners, or pass the buck. Being ethical demands you tell the truth even when it doesn’t paint you in the best light. Ethics are at the heart of trust. Followers will trust an ethical leader because they know they will be consistently honest.
5. Be Available
Leadership involves real people. In order to influence, persuade or inspire someone you have to be in the trenches with them. Politicians go out of their way to tell their stories so that they connect with voters. You may be down the hall from your associates but are you with them? Do you know what is happening in their lives, with their families, outside of work? Do you care? You should. When people know you care about them personally they will follow you anywhere. [tweet “When people know you care about them, they will follow you anywhere.”] When they don’t believe you care, they will find ways to drag their feet on the simplest of requests. Be available.
These are 5 ways to build trust, what other ways work for you?