Becoming a Trusted Leader
By Sue Dyer
What Defines a Leader?
I were to ask you what makes a person a leader, you are likely to say that it is the
person with the top position, or the person with the right title, or
that they have authority or expertise, maybe that they have the right
track record. A leader is the person in charge!
are the things that we usually think of when we think of leaders.
Here's a new perspective: there is no leader
without followers, and following is completely
voluntary! You can't manage your team to success. It is
only through leadership that your team will follow you, with a strong
sense of purpose and commitment, and accomplish, together, what you
set out to do. Why do people volunteer to follow? Because they trust
the leader! When people follow they make themselves vulnerable to the
leader. In order to feel comfortable with this vulnerability, they
need to feel confident in, respect for and admiration of the leader.
This is your responsibility as the leader – to develop this type of
relationship with your followers.
is important to note that leadership is not limited to those who have
authentic power. Leadership can be established at all levels of the
team. Leadership is available to anyone in your organization and
should be encouraged.
Continuum of Leadership:
There is a Continuum of
Leadership. At one end of the spectrum is the trusted leader who
develops high trust relationships and builds a high trust atmosphere.
At the other end there is the dictator, who uses fear to drive people.
Let’s look at what happens within the team under these different
The Trusted Leader:
With a trusted leader people are following because they choose to do
so. They feel they have a choice. When everyone on the team is there
because they chose to do so, cohesion begins to develop between the
team members. This leads to a sense of commitment to the team, the
leader and to their mission. From this cohesion creativity begins to
emerge. The team finds new ways to do things and this leads to
improvement. Improvement allows the team and organization to grow and
On the other end of the continuum is the dictator. Under a dictator
people do what the leader wants because they are afraid not to. They
fear that they will be punished. The coercion spreads among the team
members until they too begin to coerce others. This sense of coercion
leads to compliance, where people just go along. They don’t want to
make waves. Compliance results in stifled communication and decision
making. No one is going to tell the leader the truth. No one is going
to stick his or her neck out and point out a problem. Over time, the
organization and team become rigid, unable to respond to changes.
Eventually the team fails and, potentially, the organization dies.
How Can You Build Trust Within Your Team
and Become a Trusted Leader? Here
are four steps you can start with right away.
Step #1: Stop Managing and Start Leading:
Stop managing your team (and projects) and start leading them.
Managing deals with transactions. We create a schedule, develop
minutes, order materials, and delegate tasks. These transactions are
what we do, but they are not what make your team succeed or fail. They
are the tasks of the job, which is where we focus far too often.
deals with transformation. Leading engages people so they become what the team needs – and not just a task performer. By
focusing on transactions instead of focusing on transforming mindsets
and behaviors, you undermine your team’s potential, along with your
ability to teach your people how to be successful on a team. Being is
always more powerful than doing. By focusing on developing the mindset
and behavior required for success you will be heading in the right
direction. Over time, the right atmosphere and attitudes always equate
Step #2: Drive Out Fear:
Some people feel that with authority they can make people follow. When
you make someone do something through coercion you can’t help but to
create fear. As stated before, if fear is the underlying motivation
you don't have leadership because no one will volunteer to follow if
they are fearful. Fear and trust cannot
coexist – they are mutually exclusive! By definition, in
order for Leadership to exist, there must be high levels of trust. So
as a leader you must constantly be looking for where fear exists. Even
small pockets of fear can undermine the trust required for success. To
combat “fear” you must create an atmosphere that allows for a
dialogue to occur. This will allow the “truth” to surface in a
safe fashion. Only then you can deal with the issue and work to
understand the cause of the fear.
Step #3: Build Trust:
We’ve asked everyone on dozens of teams to tell us the level of
trust on the team. There was never more than a half point difference
among the responses. Everyone knows how much trust exists within the
team. Trust is your critical path to success. So monitor the level of
trust within your team and work to improve it. You can do this with a
monthly scorecard to determine the level of trust and teamwork that is
occurring. We often measure budgets, production, output, schedule…so
why not the most important measure, the level of trust and how the
team is working together.
Step #4: Don’t Let the Past Predict
Your Future: Many times we
just can’t let go of something that occurred in the past. It keeps
playing out in our minds and we begin to project it into the future.
As a Trusted Leader you must not allow the past to predict your
future. You must create a strong, positive vision for your team that
overcomes past problems, issues or failures. Trust (or lack of trust)
is evident to everyone in a team.
of creating a high trust culture is looking at the level of trust in
your policies and transactions. This is most evident in your
transactions with outsiders. Look at a sample contract. Is there
“fear” built in? Are there pages and pages of boilerplate language
trying to manage every potential risk? No matter how long a contract
is, you can never cover all of the potential contingencies – you
cannot replace trust. Look at what exists and don’t let what has
occurred in the past to decide the future of your team.
Keep Moving Toward the Trust Side of the
Continuum: The Continuum of
Leadership allows you to see where you need to go as a leader. You
must always strive to become a trusted leader if you want to produce
consistent and great results.
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