Trust and Leadership

Don’t you just love the quote highlighted in red? I found it on LinkedIn and took a quick snapshot of it on my phone.
We could easily amend that to say, “No person should be in a leadership position who does not trust his/her best people.” 
How often have you been in a leadership position where trust grew a bit shaky between you and your best people? I can think of a few situations where I failed to address eroding trust….
  • because I questioned someone’s motives (“He’s out to undermine the team and our goals”) or 
  • competence (“I can’t trust him/her to get the job done because she is unreliable, lacks sufficient training or has a different agenda”)
Trust is all important, isn’t it? If we lack mutual trust and mutual respect, things go to heck awful quick. Worse, a history of disagreements, failed attempts at getting things done can result in too much baggage. I’ve seen leaders who have garnered so many disagreements, failures and disappointments that they are crippled. The best option is for the “leader” to leave or the followers to move on from the toxic situation. And, I often feel that organizational culture is what really messes things up. Most people want to do well, and the “system” (that culture of this is the way it’s always been done) gets in the way.
It is rare that a person in a leadership position is caught unawares by his/her own problems. As a tech director, I was always able to identify a problem with my work or that of my team. If I had seen the problem, failed to take action on it, then I certainly would have welcomed reproof from my supervisors. But as a professional in a leadership position, you know when you’ve messed up. 
Sometimes, the problem can be as simple as a purchase that didn’t go well, where the technology failed to deliver and you didn’t realize it (no one else on your team did either) beforehand. Or, it can be a personality/relationship problem (e.g. The superintendent is a jerk and you just aren’t going to be able to maintain a professional relationship…you’ve pretty much decided you are moving on). Whatever the reason, you know.
You have to decide, if you can, in advance whether it will be worth it. Is falling on your sword the right move? Is telling the superintendent off the right thing to do? Is writing up someone for repeated failures an exercise in futility or will it result in the desired change? After all, there are times when it is appropriate to be direct within the bounds of professionalism with a recalcitrant staff member. There are times when you will make mistakes in spite of your best efforts when investing in technology solutions. 
When you hold yourself accountable, you empower others to do the same.
As a person who has been both in a leadership and followership role, I often attempt to hold myself accountable with these questions:
  • Do I trust the people I’m leading or who are “leading” me? In the case of the latter, I often have little choice except to stay or go. If I don’t trust you, I don’t want to be on your team. If I don’t trust you and you’re on my team, well, I don’t want you on it. We didn’t get to this point overnight, but you have to remember that there “ain’t no one perfect.” We ALL make mistakes. Trust must be violated in spite of our human imperfections.
  • Am I unreliable because I’m lazy (sigh), or a project isn’t my highest priority (maybe I want to work on something else that I enjoy doing more)? This one I struggle with from time to time. It’s often that there is something else I’d rather be working on. Fortunately, as I’ve gained more experience, I’m able to work quickly to get the work done then move onto the tasks I prefer (and spend countless days and nights on that). One way to make any task fun is to make a game out of it…whether it’s gathering information, crafting a variety of solutions, or ways to assess progress.
  • Do I need more training to do a better job? As a well-connected learner with an active PLN, it’s rare that I need more training to do a better job. I have, in fact, interviewed and been offered positions for which I am self-taught (that is, I read a lot and process it). But the actual hands-on portion can be problematic. For example, STEM/STEAM. I recently attended the CAST 17 conference and I found myself completely at a loss in a PBL session that involved using a variety of materials. I’m no McGyver. Worse, I needed some basic science to get a task done. The matron sitting to my left read the big problem and figured it out, no need to read the step by step. I was amazed.
  • Do I think things should be done differently and pull back when given a task? This is a tough one, and is really about commitment and reaching consensus. Check out this Capturing Kids Hearts definition of consensus, which I found in a science oriented presentation. How many of us can truly say we support these points? 
How do you approach trust and leadership in your work arena? How do you hold yourself accountable? 

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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