Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > Showing courage when the chips are down delivers trust

Showing courage when the chips are down delivers trust

Engendering the trust of your people is crucial to leadership and, without it, they will not follow for long, but it is also a key factor for those that the leader will be answerable to, for most business leaders are, themselves, answerable to a board, shareholder and investors amongst others. Each of these groups will have different agendas and serving each requires a division of loyalty that, in turn, is an area where many leaders fail.

What you need to be able to do is to do what is right. That is what is right to achieve the objective that you are expected to deliver.

Your people will have had this explained to them as you have sold them on what they need to do and when they need to do it by. You will have explained the importance of that deliverable and, if you have done your job well enough, they will have bought into it. They will trust you to be right but, more importantly, they will trust you to protect them from interference in their efforts to succeed.

Every business will have a way of working that may not be something that a functional or divisional leader can influence. We tend to call these things office politics and they are a fact of life for most of us. Now a leader needs to be on top of these things and be able to ensure that they are able to fight their team’s corner, but this is something that not all leaders are good at.

It is so easy to lose sight of what is right for the organisation when office politics come into play. Good leaders know when to fight these battles and when not to. They know what their priorities are and how to juggle these against their resources. They know what they have to do when things get tough; to make the right call every time.

There will be times when they have to go to their people and explain that the rules have changed and what was the goal is no longer so. They understand that they need to be truthful with their people because that is what will retain their trust.

Equally, those above the leader will need to trust the person that they have placed in a position of responsibility. There will be times when they have their own hard decisions to take and require the leaders of their businesses to deliver. This is another potential pitfall for the leader; when pressed to deliver something from above that could threaten their people, how do they call it?

Take someone with a long term project to deliver, but who is then faced with a requirement to cut headcount. This is a time for hard truths: You have to be able to look at the overall position and make the right call. Now that might be to accept the cuts, knowing that it will mean failing your project objectives, but in the knowledge that there is no other way that will work for the business. In that case there will be a hard sell to your team, but explaining the what and why and making sure that people understand is the right thing to do.

On the other hand you might dig your heels in and fight to show that there is another way to those above you. This might be a personal risk, but it is a better risk to go with what is right than to fold when to do so is wrong.

Showing courage when the chips are down delivers trust.

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