Trustworthy leaders

Tips and reasons to assure you are a trustworthy leader

Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of working with many trustworthy leaders.  I’ve also worked with a couple of real stinkers. If you’ve been in the workforce a few years, I bet you’ve at least witnessed the stark difference between the two.

Being a trustworthy leader is a necessity if you’d like to reap the rewards of being at the helm of a highly successful team. Whether it’s a team of 2 or 20,000, trustworthiness is critical, for sure… It can also be trickier than it seems.

Sometimes I ask clients “What do you think of when you hear ‘trustworthy leader’?” Honesty and integrity are most often the top responses. Both are absolutes, of course. But there are a few less obvious characteristics which, when missing, are trust derailers for otherwise honest people with high integrity.

Here’s an example:

I recently worked with a leader who commits to one thing with the team, then another with clients. It creates a tremendous amount of confusion, rework (wasted time), and unnecessary strife for his team. This leader isn’t doing anything unethical or deceitful, he is truly a man of integrity.  

However, he also has a habit of committing (with great clarity) to plans, timelines, action items, and budgets, then annihilating them with clients. When he does this, his whole team must drop what they are doing to rework plans and timelines. Then try to figure out how to fulfill the new “commitments” while staying within budget.  

I don’t know if he has trouble with details, gets lost in the moment and loses sense of the project at hand, or something else… I do know it has become predictable and because of it, his team has lost trust in him. His commitments to the team carry no weight, and they’ve become more and more disgruntled and disengaged. A few are actively seeking a new, less frustrating, job.

You may be asking “What’s the big deal?” 
Well, did you know studies have shown employees who trust their leaders are:
  • 32% more satisfied in their jobs (SHRM)
  • 12 times more likely to be actively engaged in their role and the organizational mission (Gallup)
  • 50% more productive than those who don’t (Great Place to Work)
  • Much less likely to seek another role – 12% who trust their leader compared to 40% who don’t (Ken Blanchard Companies)
The great news is there are a few simple things that need to be done, to be viewed as a trustworthy leader from all angles:
  1. Be open and transparent. This fosters a culture wherein others can be too and eliminates concerns about your motives or intentions.  < Caution: this does NOT mean sharing everything you hear or think.  Discernment is important – but that’s a whole topic on its own.>
  2. Lead by example.  Model the values of the company and the behaviors you expect from your team.
  3. Be consistent. I believe this is THE key to being a trustworthy leader. Your words and actions must align. Communicate often and consistently. Be consistently steady, resilent, and reliable.

Simple enough, right? Yes, and no.

When I’m coaching leaders who feel like they aren’t being appropriately rewarded for their contributions, and consulting with organizations that are struggling with employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention, those three areas are where I start looking for clues as to why. Invariably, some variation of one-to-all of the above are fundamental to the issues.

Regardless of your level, embodying the behaviors of a trustworthy leader is the key to enjoying the benefits that accompany a culture of trust. I invite you to assess yourself now:

  1. Reflect and be real as you consider the obvious and subtle ways you might be undermining your own trustworthiness.
  2. Commit to doing better and write out what you will begin to do differently, today.

Contact us today for more information on becoming a trustworthy leader and building a culture of trust.


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