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What Does it Mean to be a Trusted Leader?

As humans, we want to be with other humans and be part of something bigger and better than we can create on our own.  We love been part of an energetic team that has plenty of solutions, excited discussion and activity.  

A team that trusts one another creates magical team coherence.  That wonderful space where you are all in flow, moving as one, reading each other’s intent and body language.  Like a group of professional dancers effortlessly moving in harmony, in tune to the rhythmic beats of a song. 

It creates a positive buzz, a hum, an energy, that we crave.  And where we thrive as human beings.  A place where we feel energised and empowered.  Connected and aligned through shared identity and purpose.  Where we feel valued, creative and safe to share our opinion.  A place where we feel that all is possible, that we’re in this together and that the hard work is worth it.

Despite the trials and tribulations, it’s an unforgettable experience that we hold deep in our hearts for the rest of our life.  Feeling trusted makes us proud of our achievements and motivates us to keep going when things get tough.

So what does it mean to be a trusted leader?

It means you are creating a thriving, collaborative environment where everyone works together to do their best work in service of a shared goal.  You lead through trust.

And how do you know if you are trusted?  Through observing how people interact with you.  People's actions around us are always more truthful than words.  They're a good litmus test for trust and much more reliable than just assuming we are trusted.  Because when we do that we are more likely to miss telling signs that people aren't trusting our intentions.

Here are six observations:

1. People want to Work with You

People want to work with you because they know you are fair, will treat them right and will support them in their career aspirations.  You become a talent magnet. 

People want you to lead them because you get 100 percent out of them.  They feel as though you amplify their intelligence, while other low trust leaders reduce their competencies.

The result is that relationships feed off one another and people want to do more.

If you're in a big organisation, expect the word to get out and people will want to be in your team.  You'll also find that no-one wants to leave.  

2. People ask You for Advice

When you are considered competent at your job and willing to share learnings, people will come to you for advice.  And it shouldn't be just your closet buddies at work.  It should also be people across you organisation.

People trust your opinion and know you will give them the unvarnished truth and not come from personal bias.  The know they will get insights and information for you that will change their world.

Not only that, you'll find that people want to collaborate with you and your team.  

3. People Tell you about Issues

One of the difficult things with being in a position of power is that people will subconsciously view you as a threat to their livelihood.  You have the opportunity to fire people or derail their career, if you so choose.

But if people trust you to be there for them and do the right thing, they will let you know about problems right from the start.  They will also seek clarification about work.  Enabling you to do something about them before it gets too late. You also don't have to follow up lots of times, to make sure work is getting done right.
 
It means you don't get people saying "Everything is going great," when it is clearly not.  And you are not the last to know about what is going on.
 
Not only that, you'll find that people will open up and tell you things that are going on in their personal lives.  This can be a good thing.
 
4. You get Access to Resources 

If your team is doing well and you are considered to be someone who works for the good of the group, not your own department, you'll find that resources come your way more easily.
 
Receiving funding for new initiatives, extra training or access to more people is much easier than for your peers who aren't so trusted.
 
It means that transformation is easier.  People think about things differently because they are willing to innovate and explore new ideas.  People don't wait for things to happen.
 
5. People Work with You, Not Around You
 
Most leaders are able to build trust in their own teams, fairly well.  But it's across teams, that I often see a lot of issues.
 
If you are in charge of a department, but people go around you to get work done, then at some level, you're seen as a blocker.
 
You can tell when people trust you when they come to you, or your team, for help.  Of course, that often means your team has a long list of things that need to get done.  Your team is the one that gets the tough projects.  It can be tricky to navigate all of these priorities and not disappoint people.  It requires being totally transparent about all of your priorities and accountabilities.
 
6. You Love Your Job
 
When you are working in an environment where people trust you - you love your job.  It becomes fulfilling and energising. 
 
Things get done with little drama and chaos.  Decision-making gets done faster and you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining and convincing people.  Sure things might get a bit hectic every now and then, but most of the time you find things get done easily.  Without unnecessary people dramas getting in the way.
 
Observing how other people interact with us, tells us a lot about whether we are trusted.  It also means we can never assume trust based on what people say.   It's a continuous process of improving and refining - our job competency, leadership skills, and self-awareness.  
 

What's your experience?

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