Leadership is the art of inspiring others to be their best and contribute to the success of the team. There are many schools of thought when it comes to defining and measuring leadership. I’ve studied countless leadership theories in my 16 years leading others and teaching leadership. The one thing that sums up everything I’ve ever learned about as a leader is “Trust”. Trust is a feeling (a sense) you get when you are being led by a good person, a person with good intentions, a person who cares for his fellow person. Trust is built over time, one interaction at a time (Think of it as the compound interest of trust) with those you are leading. The sum of all of those moments are what seals the trust between you (their leader) and them. Moments when you invest in them, listen to them, empower them, believe in them, propel them to become a better leader, father, mother, friend…all of those things add up to equal the sum of trust.
If a leader is trustworthy and creates a climate of trust within the organization – followers will follow suit and nurture trust up and down the chain. How does a leader create trust? The first rule of trust is care – when you care deeply about the lives of the people you are charged to lead it builds trust. People leave organizations more often because they feel they are just a number, just a warm body filling a seat. This year, I’ve interviewed with successful companies in California and many have the business and management concepts mastered, but they lack the deep trust across their organizations. I learned quite a bit from observing the stark difference between the HR managers, VPs and other managers at these companies and the military leaders I’ve had over the years. Sure the civilian sector hired great people, they gave them tons of perks, catered lunches and dinners at the office – team building activities, free swag, and some even had game rooms, bars, or let you drink whiskey at your computer if it helped you create the next big idea. In the dozens of companies I’ve visited this year, only one had an atmosphere of trust and deep care for each of its employees. This company wasn’t a Fortune 500 company, it wasn’t a huge tech company creating the next big thing. It was a state government agency of only about 65-70 people and every single one of them who I met had something good to say about working in an atmosphere of trust, care, and innovation. Those are words we don’t often hear combined with “government agency”. In the months since attending a training workshop with them, I’ve reflected on what I witnessed in that organization over the course of a few days. As a teacher and developer of leadership curriculum I was inspired to explore how this agency spread trust up and down in their organization. The receptionist to the director all displayed the same passion about being in this organization. I watched their director greet his employees in our workshop and ask them about their weekend, how their day was going. He connected with them, smiled and listened. He cared about them and really listened to them. I learned as a young sergeant people really want their leader to “know them” to know what matters most to them, what inspires them, where they see themselves one day. You build trust by building rapport and relationships with the people you lead. Since 2002 I’ve tried to lead this way while building and nurturing life long connections with those I lead. Even if they only seek out my assistance once, I try my best to really care for them, help guide them, build that sum of trust.
As Maya Angelou once wrote,
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
when your people feel the genuine care and concern you have for them, the care you have for their families…they will follow you to the ends of the earth. If you are leading others, it is your ultimate responsibility to build trust with your employees. Earn their trust and confidence in you as their leader by showing you care. When you do that the sum of trust is yours!