There are a wide variety of traits that define different people in different positions throughout our wide world. Doctors are assumed to be altruistic, athletes are seen to be fast thinking and full of strength and mothers are perceived as patient caregivers who often put others needs ahead of their own. Then there are those who achieve their status in life through skills that may not be considered quite as positive. Politicians come first to mind as they are often seen as having achieved success only after having climbed over the backs of others they have defeated through manipulation and deceit.
All of these mannerisms are without doubt, generalizations in their own particular fields. There are of course, honest politicians who respect their opposition and truly care about the people they represent. Just as there are doctors performing their jobs purely for self-satisfaction and many women who should never have been mothers to begin with. It takes all shapes and sizes to make up our modern world and many times characteristics that may apply to one individual may not hold true of another in the same area of expertise.
A perfect example of this diversity is displayed when it comes to the topic of leadership. Leaders exist in almost every facet of our lives. They can be as simple as someone who is head of the house or middle management. They can be military, law enforcement, sports figures or someone as diverse as a popularised gangster idolized by the public. We have corporate leaders and civil leaders. We have community leaders and people destined to lead countries. Leadership covers all this and more: Combinations commonly occur. One can be a Senator, hold a forward position in a charity and be the leader of their family, not to mention a Little League coach.
What is so interesting is that most people do not lead in the same manner. There exist many styles that define what type of leader a person is. Too many in fact, to get into here in any amount of detail. For our purposes, we will view leaders in their most broad sense: Good and Bad (and even these divisions are subject to debate). There are many skills that make up a good leader and many skills lacking that make up bad leaders. It is the skills required of a good leader that we wish to focus on.
Of all the skills possibly accessible to a good leader, there is one above all that is necessary for all good leaders, regardless of profession: Trust. The ability to inspire trust in the people being lead is absolutely essential for true positive leadership. It can be argued that when it comes to leadership styles, employing Fear is the polar opposite to gaining organizational trust. Much can be accomplished through authoritarian autonomy and fear, however this method of leadership would most likely not fall into the “Good” category.
Putting aside for now all the negative repercussions of using Fear as a primary motivator in leadership, let us examine why it’s friendly step-brother, Trust is such an effective leadership skill. What makes trust amongst a leader’s employees so essential, is the fact that so many other positive attributes flow from it, permeate the workplace and operate as a cohesive force amongst a group of people.
The initial stages of trust are cultivated when an individual (or group) in a leadership position demonstrate that they actually care about their employee’s well being – physically, mentally and emotionally. This in fact can be achieved through several methods. Some might include providing a proven, safe work environment, offering inclusive rather than exclusive employee incentive programs (profit-sharing / investment matching) and providing a free, comfortable forum for employees to express their thoughts and opinions on such important topics as morale and streamlining of product.
Providing such positive outlets for employee input however, is only half the battle in setting a foundation for organizational trust. The other half of leaderships’ acknowledging their employee’s contributions and importance is actually listening to what is being said. When someone knows that their team leader not only values their work, but is truly interested in a person’s ideas, it tends to open up many pathways for free and comfortable discourse between all team members, consequently strengthening the team as a whole.
Building Upon Leadership
Once this initial level of trust or foundation is constructed, higher orders of leadership trust can then be built on top of it. When employees trust their leaders with their well being, they are more likely to begin to strive for goals that reach toward excellence in their personal and professional performance, rather than simply meeting minimum standards and basic requirements. This then reinforces leaderships’ confidence in their people; initiating a positive feedback loop with trust as its hub. In professional training circles, this process is known as Employee Engagement.
Consequences in such a positive environment then tend to manifest themselves in such areas as high workplace morale, increased clarity and amount of communication between co-workers and overall improved performance as a team working towards the common goal of success for the company. Because it has been consistently demonstrated to employees that their leadership trust factor is highly developed in both giving and receiving that trust, the team knows intuitively that ultimately, what is good progress for the company is also beneficial to employees on a group and individual basis.
The symbiotic relationship that results from positively applied leadership trust then itself can become the bedrock for growing and strengthening the company in turn. In today’s high volume communications world, word of a up and coming company filled with motivated and happy employees moves through the grapevine quickly. Outsiders look at a stable, growing enterprise comprised of multiple employees with productive, long term employment careers and see a logical long term investment. Whether that investment manifests itself in capital contributions to growth or by new people deciding to invest their new ideas and energy in the form of a career themselves, the end result is a dedicated group of individuals pulling together as a team in pursuit of excellence and success.