The Principles of Trusted Leadership
Trusted Leadership takes
many forms. From the way the CEO talks to the members
of his or her senior management team, to the way front-line
employees show how they feel about the company in the way
they deal with customers. From the way people get promoted,
or passed over for promotion, to the expectations they have
when they sign on or leave. In order to get a handle on trust
inside, you need to develop some form of 360-degree, multidimensional
perspective on the way trust manifests itself in the leadership
group. Or doesn't.
Trusted leadership shows
itself as the sum total of many interpersonal interactions,
all of them extraordinarily fragile. Even in the best
work environments, trust is potentially under attack all the
time. Every time one manager says something about another
without his or her knowledge; every time two staffers meet
at the coffee machine; every e-mail sent, every announcement
made, every time a high-profile executive walks down a hall
or engages in casual conversation. Trust needs vigilant protectors.
Every day, every organizational
juncture provides opportunities for building trusted leadership.
Every instance in which trust might come under attack is also
an instance in which trust might be created or strengthened.
Every meeting with your employees give them a chance to see
you and other leaders in action, hopefully not posturing or
wearing false smiles.
The speed at which trust
is destroyed is always faster than the speed at which it is
built, but the process of building trust does accumulate deposits
in your company's "trust bank." A major violation
of trust can quickly spread and poison an entire organization
if it's not managed properly, however, no matter how strong
that organization's "trust account' had been up to that
point. A leadership group that works to build trust inside
achieves a rhythm that helps it move smoothly through the
kinds of business situations that cause other leadership groups
to sputter and stall.
Your "account balance" provides a buffer of sorts.
Where there is a history of trust, people are more inclined
to give the company the benefit of the doubt in tough or questionable
An individual's ability
to build and maintain trust with clients correlates with his
or her ability to build and maintain trust inside. Relationships
with clients are all about expectations, promises and delivery.
So are relationships inside an organization. You can only
set realistic expectations and make good on promises from
the inside out if you're sure that the organization behind
you can deliver. Your professionalism and certainty requires
Becoming a trusted leader
requires both message and medium. In other words, inspiring
language, by itself, won't do the trick. Trust is intangible,
but the acts of building, maintaining, and repairing trust
require concrete processes. For example, you could easily
proclaim, "From now on, the head of marketing will work
to build trust with the head of finance!" Heads may nod,
people may say "Aye, aye!" But the words by themselves
are meaningless. If your head of marketing thinks about his
need to build trust, however, and picks up the phone to call
the head of finance to discuss a touchy resource allocation
issue in advance instead of resetting it as a fait accompli
a week later, then that's progress.
Trusted leadership is
a combination of what you accomplish (outcomes) plus who you
are (skills and competencies). Great outcomes and trustworthiness
are often found together.