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  • Writer's pictureAmy Woolf

Trust Me, I Am Your Leader

I try to avoid talking politics in a professional environment, for one I think politics drives passion which can often lead to misinterpreted assumptions and also, because our politics should not affect our business relationships. That being said, the current pandemic has brought to the stage something amongst our politicians which I am incredibly passionate about – trust. Those of you who have heard me talk about leadership will know that I am clear on what I think strong leadership is about: Trust. Authenticity. Positive Disruption.

Today I am focusing on trust.

Politicians around the world are being compared in their response to Covid 19. Many are being praised, Jacinda Ahern, Angela Merkel, Tsai Ing-wen and Mette Frederiksen to name a few. Whilst others are being criticised for missteps, confusing information and not acting fast enough.

There was no playbook for how to respond to a pandemic and actions were taken, we hope, with the best intentions at heart. Some leaders have managed to get it right with their people but not necessarily with the virus. It strikes me as incredibly interesting that despite New York having the highest number of Covid 19 related deaths in the United States, and that the Governor has been criticised for his actions in dealing with it, Governor Andrew Cuomo remains one of the most trusted leaders in America.

At the heart of leadership should always be trust. Trust the people you lead and give them reason to trust you. Whilst Cuomo may not get it right, he understands how to talk to his audience. He shows vulnerability, holds his hands up and says firmly that although he doesn’t know what he is doing, he is trying his best. Whether or not this is true is completely a separate matter. According to a former Carter administration official his “daily briefings are a case study in transparency and truth to build trust… [he] believes the American people can handle the truth.”

Robert Phillips of Jericho Chambers created his “Holy Trinity” of Trust, Purpose, Engagement which spoke true to me and I urge anyone who hasn’t looked into it, to have a look now. Trust runs extremely deep in many of the most successful organisations. When people trust their leadership they are more invested in their businesses and likewise, they need to feel trusted.

It is probably not a shock that many people had to adjust to working from home in the new normal that the pandemic has created. Many happily got on with their work, safe in the knowledge their managers trusted them. Others however, discovered the opposite was true. The effect on their output has been rather interesting. Those that we have spoken to who feel confident that their work speaks for itself, work as hard as they can. Those that confided in us that they felt their organisations, or management, had no faith in them, were more likely to turn on Netflix at 11am.

In a recent podcast I heard a similar story about the Boston Fire Department. Historically the Fire Department had no sick leave policy, meaning the Fire Fighters were trusted to take sick leave as and when they were sick rather than have a limited number of days per year. After a high number of sick days on Mondays and Fridays the Department decided to implement a leave allocation. The result? People took their sick days. They took them all and usually by the end of the year in a panic so as not to lose them.

The data showed the number of days taken before the limit came in was much lower. Sure, some people had taken liberties, but not many. Most people liked the fact they were trusted to take sick leave when they were sick, and in turn trusted their leadership to have continued faith in them. Trust is a delicate and two way street.

The most successful leaders understand that balance. They get that trust needs to be garnered and curated.

Where am I going with this? For me it is simple.

No one said that leadership is easy. Leading people in any capacity is probably one of the hardest roles we can take on, in whatever guise we are leading them. Our vision, our goals and our actions affect those around us and if you are at the very top, those actions are scrutinised time and time again. With the trust of the people you are leading, the role can be that much more doable and much more rewarding.

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