It shouldn’t take a prolonged recession to underscore the fact organizations can ill afford to make mistakes. Uncertainty abounds and the margin for error is very slim. The consequences of a misstep here or a delayed move there can be catastrophic. It begs the age-old question: How does one lead through “perilous times?”
To answer this question, it’s important to look at the qualities of what makes a great leader. There are many leaders out there that publish self-improvement and development books, but I feel much of these are the same tired regurgitation of what has been said so many times before. Rather than do much of the same, I’ve always taken a kind of utilitarian view of leadership. It might seem simplistic, but I believe the best leaders tend to have the best followers. I heard a famous coach say once that his half-time speech always worked better when his players were better than the other team’s players. Exhort, extol, threaten or promise, is one thing, but it comes primarily from the top down. The most effective leaders, in my opinion, are the ones who had my trust. These leaders make honest and accurate decisions and help their employees get to where they want and need to go. They have always had my confidence to succeed and I was willing to do whatever I could to help.
Trust like that starts small and is earned daily through interactions that build upon each other. Your followers can’t be demanded to love you. They will develop that love for you on their own through a relationship of trust. My responsibilities and accomplishments, though seemingly insignificant in the overall picture, were always appreciated and recognized for the important contribution to the whole. It is easier to trust someone when you know that person trusts you and reinforces that trust regularly.
Leadership in today’s organizations is not for the faint of heart. It takes dedication, time, focus, honesty, and above all, courage in our interactions. As you weave those qualities back and forth among your followers, you will ultimately create trust that will survive the perilous times. Trust me.