Google “leadership” and you will find a whopping 464 million results. Videos, blogs, articles, research studies and trainings are all at your disposal, ready to help you become a better leader. However, the best advice I ever received was from my college professor. She said, “If you want people to follow you, you first have to gain their trust and respect.”
I have worked for both good and bad leaders, and the successful ones are those who make a conscious effort to act in ways that foster an atmosphere of trust and respect.
A past interaction brought me to this conclusion.
I was sitting with my group in our senior capstone class. One group member (for all intents and purposes, I will call her Sam) elected herself our leader. Sam made a pretty convincing pitch as to why she deserved the position, so we were all ok with it.
From the very beginning, I started catching glimpses into how she would be as our leader. She was never on time; when she did show up, she wasn’t prepared; and if something went awry, everyone else was to blame.
Our short interaction together left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. We saw firsthand exactly what not to do as a leader. The reason we couldn’t take her seriously was because she didn’t walk the walk.
Walk the Walk…
To gain the trust and respect of others you must practice what you preach. One way to get there is to ask yourself three questions:
- “Am I accountable for all of my actions, both successes and failures?” We love to pat ourselves on the back. Positive reinforcement is a good thing, but if that’s all you ever recognize in yourself, you are doing yourself and others a disservice. Good leaders accept when they’ve made a mistake and they work toward corrective solutions that prevent future errors. Others around you can relate and will respect you for taking accountability.
- “Do I devote time to perfecting my personal brand?” When we hear the word “brand,” our minds immediately think of companies, but individuals also have brands, called personal brands. What association do people make when they hear your name? Do they look up to you and think, “Wow, she is always so professional and organized,” or do they say, “Wow, he is really a mess.” When you’re a leader, a spotlight is always on you, so it is even more important that you cultivate a positive personal brand. What do your daily interactions say about you?
- “Do I recognize my own weaknesses?” No one is perfect and being able to admit that you have things to work on makes you more approachable. A good leader knows his or her weaknesses and is confident enough to delegate when necessary. Identifying the strengths of others and capitalizing on them proves to the team members that you trust and respect them, which, in turn, has a big impact on productivity and efficiency.
… and Talk the Talk
Respect and trust only can be earned by a leader who is both vulnerable and honest. Hold yourself accountable, work to perfect your personal brand and acknowledge the strengths in others. Such a leader will inspire others to do the same.