How Much Better Would Your Team Be If They Really Trusted You?

How would you like to work for a leader that is long on promises and short on delivery? If you’ve already worked for this type of leader, how long did it take for you to lose faith and stop trusting this leader? Probably not very long at all! When a leader can’t be trusted, all kinds of problems are bound to arise.

My friend “Judy” has worked for the same company for the past five years. When she first started there, the owner of the company made all kinds of promises; “when this happens, you’ll get that reward; when this contract is signed, you’ll get that bonus”.

Unfortunately, when the contract was signed, the bonus never got paid. When the expected result was obtained, the reward was never given. When Judy asked what happened to carrot that had been dangled out in front of her, the answer was always the same…”things change, we can’t always get what we want”. At first, Judy thought she was doing something wrong or, perhaps, just did not understand what she thought had been promised. However, she soon learned from co-workers that the same thing was happening to them. It was the owner’s modus operandi. Needless to say, Judy and her co-workers no longer trust the owner and greet promised rewards with an attitude of “OK, whatever!”

Leaders who want their followers to stick with them through thick and thin know that their word must be their bond; that they must not make promises that they cannot or will not keep. Leaders who are trusted know that trust must be earned on a daily basis and that one broken promise destroy the trust that was earned over months or years.

A smart man once said that there were two ways to lead; from personal power and from position power

Position power comes from the title on the door, “boss”. A boss can force people to do things regardless whether the followers have faith in him or her; or not.

Personal power is earned. It comes from the faith that followers have in the leader; faith that promises made will be promises kept; faith that good work will be recognized and that credit will be given where it is due. Personal power is a sign that your followers respect and believe in you.

As a leader, if you say what you mean and mean what you say; if you keep your word, you will earn the trust of your followers. You will be well on your way to becoming the leader that attracts and retains the very best followers and teammates in the world.

What Did You Learn From the Worst Leader You Ever Followed?

At one time or another, many of us have had that rare opportunity to follow a leader who personified the definition of leadership; someone who we would follow to the ends of the earth and beyond.  That individual had some trait, some characteristic, that sparked your passions and devotion to a cause and you were willing to do whatever it took to further the cause.  It’s easy to learn from leaders or this sort.  We recognize what they did that inspired us and resolve to do the same things to inspire others.

Unfortunately, each of us has also had that all too common experience of being lead by someone who did it all wrong; who failed to inspire; who, as one person put it, “couldn’t lead a bunch of kids into a candy store”.  It’s easy to adopt the initial reaction of “I don’t want to learn any of this person’s leadership skills”.  But, let’s think about that reaction for a moment and see if a different perspective helps us learn something positive.

What was it about the poor leader that “turned off” our willingness to follow?  Can we learn from this experience to determine behaviors that we don’t want to display when leading others?  To illustrate, let me give an example of two leaders I’ve had in my life at different times. To protect their privacy, I’ll simply refer to them as “Leader #1” and Leader #2.

Leader #1, when you asked if he would talk with you about something, would immediately set aside what he was working on, literally clearing his desk so that he could give you his undivided attention.  He’d instruct the receptionist to hold his calls.  While his door might still be open, anyone coming to that door would be waved away; a gesture understood by everyone in the office to mean “this person and I are talking; please don’t interrupt”.  Leader #1 spent time with you until you indicated that the conversation could be ended.

Leader #2, on the other hand, would invite you into his office when you asked for time; usher you to his conference table; and, take his cell phone from his pocket and sit it on the table where he could look at it simply by glancing down.  When his cell phone rang, he’d think nothing of answering it while you were talking.  If he received a text message, he’d read it and frequently respond to it while you were talking.  If the receptionist announced a call, he would often walk over to his desk and pick up his telephone to take the call … while you were talking.

Which leader made you feel important?  Which leader demonstrated that he was there to help you?  Which leader would you rather follow?

The answer to that third and last question tells you what kind of leader you want to be.  While Leader #2 was a poor leader, he taught you something about how to lead by showing you how not to lead.