Bernie Anderson
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Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Leadership and Trust: How to be a Leader and Not a Power-Monger

Trust is the key to great teams and to great leadership.

Depending on your past, trust is also often one of the most difficult aspects of both.

There are levels of trust. Trust can be broken because a leader doesn't show up to meetings on time. Trust can also be broken because a leader is controlling and even abusive.

But, whether leading from the front or leading from the back, trust is the key component to everything, because trust is the foundation for every relationship. Leadership is about relationships.

In their seminal work "The Leadership Challenge," Kouzes and Pozner make two critical statements about leadership and trust:

People who are trusting are more likely to be happy and psychologically adjusted than are those who view the world with suspicion and distrust.

People who are perceived as trusting are sought out more as friends, more frequently listened to, and subsequently more influential.

In our evergreen work environments, trust is everything. Reorgs. Restructure. Changing frameworks. S-curves. Overhauls. Paradigm shifts (there's a good buzzword from 20 years ago). The world in which we live is constantly changing. Thus, our work environments follow suit. We will have new co-workers, new bosses, new positions, new responsibilities. If your workplace stays the same over the next three years, you're in an unusual, possibly stagnant, place. Change is the only real constant.

Here's the thing with that: most of the time we have absolutely no control over the people around us. Even if your position is a supervisory one - you can't control how people feel about things. How they feel about change. How they deal with how they feel about change. And while the work environment will often morph into something altogether different - most are not okay with change.

In the midst of shifting everything, I do have control of one thing.

My responses.
My attitude.
My outlook.

Change is inevitable. Trust is critical. How do we navigate these oft-swirling waters? I have a few ideas.

Trust first

For those whose trust has been broken in the past, this can seem daunting. Maybe impossible. But, whether from the front or from the back, it's how to lead.

Trust is earned. It's true. But someone has to begin the process. Why shouldn't it be you? Have the self-awareness to lead the way.

The only way to earn the trust of someone else is to give away your own. We initiate because that's how we lead. There is risk of betrayal and failure. For sure. But initiating trust is a powerful first step to building an environment of trust, which is where great things are accomplished.

Give away the farm

The key way to show trust is to give away all pertinent information. I've worked with people in the past who withhold vital information to keep control. Information would be passed on to others only at personal opportune moments.

That's not leadership. That's power-mongering.

A leader empowers others to act. This means trust, which means all necessary information and instructions are freely shared - and then some.

You show trust when you share what you know. This will enhance team performance and morale. Trust is proven when trust is given away.

Love one another

Finally, trust is built when we have genuine concern and empathy for those we work with. As we lead with compassion, others will respond in kind. Not always immediately, but eventually. There is incredible power in assuming the best of people. In paying attention to people. In a genuine desire for others to succeed. Think the best of people. Work for the best in people. An environment of trust can be built around those behaviors.

When leadership is stripped of control and authoritarianism, and built around trust and empathy, the foundation is laid for great good.

Trust first.
Be generous.

That's leadership.