Leadership of old was governed by two main principles: leaders were few and special, followers were common and many, and results mattered above all.
If you wanted connection and support, you might be pointed to the nearest afternoon tea.
Due to a number of factors, the old style of leadership was forced to make way for a modern, transformative approach.
Betrayal of trust
The global recession in 2008 was the final nail in old-school leadership.
For the public, it turned out that leaders in suits didn’t have all the answers after all, and nor did they always possess the foresight to make wise decisions.
As a result, trust in leaders plummeted.
Business and political honchos alike suddenly found cracks starting to appear following the golden age of spin.
Fewer people were buying into the clichéd rhetoric that had once appeared to be credible.
For the first time, major players in business and politics were seen to be truly vulnerable and, as a result, became more accountable to those who demanded answers as well as a new, authentic leadership.
Trust takes time
One of the easiest pitfalls for leaders is the idea that they automatically command trust by virtue of their position. What leaders actually command – at least for a time – is compliance.
People tend to do what they’re told because they’re not the one in charge, and it makes sense to keep the one in charge satisfied with good performances.
But without trust – which takes time to build – sincere respect and a willingness to commit to a leader’s vision is unlikely to manifest, which is the difference between employees who feel inspired to help leaders achieve their vision, and those who stick around to do their jobs.
Trust within teams
If we look at successful sports teams over the years – such as FC Barcelona and Manchester United – they tend to have unique philosophies that govern from the bottom right to the top, and trust plays a vital role in any success.
On the pitch, a player needs to know where his teammates are and know them so well that they can anticipate each move of every player.
He also needs to feel that his teammates will have his back should he slip up.
On the side-lines, the manager must feel that communication, trust, and respect play a part in every moment throughout the game.
And so it is with any business or project. Trust is cultivated through positive familiarity that is strengthened by integrity, respect, and honesty.
How can any team expect to succeed consistently and well if there’s a lack of trust?
Trust is a two-way commitment, but its spark comes from leaders who seek to value relationships above results in full awareness that when we take care of our relationships, results always follow.
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5 powerful quotes
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
– Stephen R Covey
“The best thing you can do to help others take responsibility is to authentically practise the behaviours that you want others to practise.”
– Michelle Reina
“Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Be transparent with your team, even when the truth may be unpopular or inconvenient.”
– Bill George
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
– Oprah Winfrey
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
– Colin Powell
3 ways to build trust
Align your words with your actions
Integrity is the central pillar of trust. Words are easy and anyone can talk a good game.
This is the reason people are now starting to pay more attention to what you do rather than what you say.
By being congruent, those you lead will be motivated to follow. Otherwise, minimal compliance driven by fear is the best a leader can hope for.
Show people that you genuinely care
Leadership isn’t possible without followers, and followers don’t stick long without a functional relationship.
A connection is vital in leadership – if people can see that a leader is sincerely interested in their story and cares about their well-being, they’ll invariably do all they can to help move towards achieving shared goals.
Being a leader can be intoxicating.
Few people give realistic feedback to ideas or suggestions – everything is, “Yes, boss – great, boss” – but leaders who try to spin a line and think no one notices are only setting themselves up for failure.
Employees are excellent ‘lie’ detectors, and they do a lot of talking among themselves.
Honesty isn’t just the best policy in helping to establish a strong rapport – it’s the smart move.
Sandy is a writer who has had the fortune to work with a number of good leaders. Despite the individual styles, the best leaders were those who strove to cultivate an environment of trust and transparency. To connect with Sandy, you can follow him on Twitter @RealSClarke. To share your thoughts with us, write to email@example.com.