How to Earn Trust as a Leader
Leadership is something that many people strive for, yet it is one of the most studied facets of people skills. Many people want to know “how do I become a leader?” or “how do I get others to trust me in order to follow me?” Below are 10 components that can effectively help you to become a trusted leader among your peers.
You will notice that these components are not geared for the dictator-type leader but towards servant leadership. In order to lead with a servant-like attitude, the leader must have the interest of his followers and their desires rather than his or her own.
So let’s take a closer look at how to earn trust as a leader!
1. Have an open door policy– This does not mean that you only should leave your door open for others to walk in literally, but make yourself accessible. Let others know that you are available for them anytime and not just when it is convenient for you. Doing something such as giving others your personal cell number or other bits of personal information tells them that “I trust you.” You may be thinking that ‘I don’t want to give someone my personal number.” What you are saying is that “I don’t trust this person.” How do you expect others to trust you if you in turn do not trust them. Sharing personal information is one of the quickest ways to earn trust in others.
2. Keep in contact– So you have provided your personal cell phone number and have hopefully already had the opportunity to meet the people that you are leading face to face. You must now take it a step further by continuously keeping in contact with them. This can be done through e-mail, text, phone calls, or other technologies such as streaming video. The crucial point here is that you are viewed as a real person who cares about your followers. You did not just stop by and shake hands for a few minutes never to be hard from again. Be real and show it by keeping in touch.
3. Listen– The aspiring leader is a good listener. People feel that they are respected and valued when they are listened to. Too many leaders think that they are “leading” only when they are talking and sharing their own ideas. Good leaders are great listeners.
4. Get to know the people you want to lead– This goes back to component #3. In order to get to know the people that you want to lead, you have to be willing to listen to them and where they came from, etc. That is how you will learn what their “hot buttons” are and what will motivate them. You can learn what their values are and what makes them happy, sad, etc. Taking the time to learn about the people you lead will not only earn you trust, but it will help you when you face situations where you can have somebody help you out because you know their personality and strengths.
5. Appreciate and encourage diversity– Be willing to learn about another person’s culture. If you are leading a diverse bunch of people, it would be smart to take the time and learn more about their culture and values. You can do this by simply going to a restaurant that serves the same kind of food that they grew up with. It might be attending a museum or some sort of musical event that celebrates their culture. While doing this, it is even more effective when you share your culture with them so that they can get to know you as well. By learning about other people’s culture you are, in effect, saying “I think that you are important and I want to learn more about you!”
6. Try on a new pair of shoes– I’m sure that you have heard the expression about walking in another person’s shoes. In order to be trusted, your followers need to know that you relate to them; that you have walked in their shoes. The best way to demonstrate that is to take the time and do exactly what you expect of them. I have seen too many leaders stand on their soap box and shout out orders and expectations only to draw large amounts of resentment from the people that they lead. In fact, some have never even performed the actions that they expect others to do. Don’t expect others to do what you are not willing to do is a great line to lead by. Take the time to make that sales call or service a customer to demonstrate that you understand the joys and hardships of the job at hand. When you get down off of your soap box and perform the actions that others are doing, you can learn of the strengths and weaknesses of the processes that you have in place.
7. Create a mastermind group– Select key people within your organization to conduct a regular focus group. This is intended to help everyone work towards a common purpose such as growth of a company or any other organizational goal. What makes this mastermind group so beneficial is that you can share ideas with each other that you may not have thought of. In addition, you have the opportunity to learn from the group what they like or don’t like about organization, product, services, and even your leadership practices and skills. This is a classic case of two or more heads are better than one!
8. Be willing to take the first risk– If you want to earn trust of those you lead, you must be willing to be the first one to take a risk. These risks are not the same kind as jumping out of a plane or something of an extreme sport. The risks that I am referring to are things such as the risk of not being liked by some people. Another risk may be you reaching out to someone and provide them with open communication and they reject it. While they are not high risks, they are risks nonetheless because you are risking your ego and self esteem. In order to build the trust of others, you must be willing to risk these things. It has been shown that those who have confidence in others are in turn seen as somebody who is trustworthy. It can also work in reverse order that if one does not possess confidence in others they are not seen as trustworthy. Another way of viewing it is those do don’t trust are not to be trusted. Take the risk and have confidence in others and you will be seen as a trusted leader.
9. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you– If you are a manager in a company or a leader in a business, be mindful of what upsets your followers or the people who work for you. After all, you are not a leader if nobody is following you. Here are some common things that can dismantle your leadership: Angry or rude behavior, public criticism, not giving credit where credit is due, pointing out only flaws or mistakes without edifying the positive actions or thoughts of others. There are many more but a way to avoid these common mistakes and others is to constantly work on your people skills. You can do this by reading books on how to effectively communicate with people and modeling other effective leaders who have good people skills and can get along well with others.
10. Set others up to win– As a servant leader, your primary goal should be to help others win. A famous Zig Ziglar quote helps to make this statement crystal clear. “You can have everything you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” As the leader of your organization or workforce, you set the vision for where you want the group to be. By helping everyone in the group accomplish just a little bit more than they thought they could will help you to gain their trust. If you have a sales goal and people hit that goal, why not increase the goal by one more sale? Help to build on successes with small, attainable goals. Our minds are like rubber bands, once they are stretched they can never go back to their original shape. If you show the people you lead how they can accomplish more than they thought that they could, your whole organization will grow and you will have the trust of everyone in it.
By implementing these 10 components into your leadership toolbox, you will begin to earn the trust of the people that you lead. It will not happen overnight- trust can not be earned overnight. Trust is earned through serving and consistency. When people see that you are willing to sincerely help them and you are consistent and predictable in your actions, they will lower the walls of mis-trust and you can begin a wonderful journey of success together.
“Trust is the essence of leadership.”
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