Be The Leader You Wish To Follow
There is nothing more valuable to a leader than to enjoy the trust of those she leads.
- When our employees trust us, they will do great things to achieve the goals we set with them.
- When our stockholders and board trust us, they will give us the freedom to pursue those goals.
- When our customers trust us, they will eagerly buy from us, happily bring their friends to us, and (if we allow them) even actively co-create the things they want to buy next from us.
- When our community trusts us and something goes wrong, they will be more forgiving and less punitive as we strive to set things right.
- Even our vendors will offer us more favorable terms for us when they learn to trust us, because that is how rare trust can be for them.
There is really no end to the benefits that accrue from being trusted. Trust is so essential to business survival that it’s remarkable to me when deeply distrusted leaders or companies survive. But often they don’t. Business without trust is a sucker’s bet.
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Want to be trusted? Don’t seek it out. Trust is something you earn, not something you ask for or demand. It doesn’t work that way. Think of trust as a result, not an action itself.
It’s important (and far more fruitful) for a leader to strive to be trustworthy instead of trusted. But trustworthy isn’t an action either. You can’t declare yourself trustworthy, much as crooks and con men, used car dealers and self-described “trusted advisors” throughout time have tried. Being trustworthy is also a result, not an action itself.
The thing you can control? The action you can take? To trust. As a leader, you must extend trust to others – especially to your employees, but also to your customers, vendors, community, and other stakeholders – before they will begin to trust you. Leaders go first. Trust, if you would be seen as trustworthy. Trust, if you would be trusted.
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Of the three facets of trust – Trustworthy, Trusted, Trusting – only one is within your control. And that one, to be trusting, is such a profound signal of your confidence and your personal character that its mastery will put you in a class almost by yourself among other leaders.
Leadership talent is rare enough in this world. Leadership character? It’s so rare that, when we find it, we often call that leader great.
Lead a life of significance, not merely of talent. Learn to trust. And in trusting, become the leader you yourself long to follow.
To be trusting, is such a profound signal of your confidence and your personal character that its mastery will put you in a class almost by yourself among other leaders.
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