Leading Effectively

 By Lea McLeod

A recent HBR article cited the top 15 qualities of an effective leader, as reported by a group of 195 leaders in over 30 global organizations.

Not surprisingly, none of the top results (integrity, communication, commitment to employees) included descriptions of technical competency.

The higher you lead in an organization, the more your success depends less on your technical know how, and more on your ability to get results with, and through, other people.

Doing this means forsaking some of the hands-on, results driving approach you may have taken as an individual contributor, or low-level manager.

Now, the key to your success is getting those around you help to help you – and the organization – win. In the immortal words of John Maxwell, “All leadership is influence.”

A big part of becoming a great leader is creating an environment where your team can do its best work, and where they trust you to paint (and lead them to) a compelling vision.

Influence doesn’t happen without trust, so it can often be problematic for leaders who don’t spend the time and energy to focus on trust; many leaders neglect trust-building as a critical part of their jobs.

In his book, The Curse of the Self, author Mark Leary cites the “better than average” effect as the reason that more leaders aren’t as deliberate and intentional about building relationships as they could be. Most of us think we’re better at doing things like relationship- and trust-building than we actually are!

Do you? If you’re not sure, ask your employees. What they say, or more importantly what they don’t say, will give you all the feedback you need.

If you need a bit more intentional trust-building, you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not really that hard to do, it just takes a little time and intention on your end. In the research for his book Trust Works, Ken Blanchard cites four simple concepts that make leaders more trust-worthy in an organization.

Be Able

No matter what your title, your team wants to know that you know what you’re doing. Show them you are able. Inspire them to follow you.

Take time in each all-hands meeting to talk about how you’ve delivered on galvanizing visions before, and how you’ve led others to results that win. Let them know how you’re going to use your leadership skills and vision to harness the resources they need to do their jobs well, and to execute on your common vision. Then let them know how much you’ll depend on them. Give them cause to follow you, and a reason to help you succeed.

Be Believable

This is all about integrity, and it’s the number one leadership quality that showed up in the survey I mentioned above.

Your team wants to know they can rely on you; that you’re not going to lie, cheat, or steal. When the hard issues come up, they want to know you’re going to do the right thing.

They won’t know that by the speeches you give or the fired-up emails you send out. They’ll know it because of how you behave, and the decisions you make in response to difficult situations. They’ll know it when you admit you made a mistake, or when you’re transparent and truthful about what’s going on in the organization.

 Be Connected

 This is all about the people who will help you succeed. In spite of today’s technology driven focus, no organization exists without people and as people we have an innate desire to connect with others, even in the workplace.

Those traits called out in the survey I mentioned? They include being committed to ongoing employee development, creating the feeling of succeeding and failing together, helping employees grow into emerging leaders . More people stuff.

And don’t forget, your followers want to know about you, your story, and that you care about them. Not as a “human capital yield factor,” or a “headcount,” but as a real human being with a story of his or her own. After all, they spend half their waking time helping you succeed. Show some interest. Ask questions. Connect.

 Be Dependable

You build trust when you follow through. Do what you say. Say what you do.

A very simple example where many leaders trip up is in organizational behavior. Your job is to tell people what behaviors are valued, and how they will be rewarded. Often leaders say they value one thing, but disperse rewards for behavior inconsistent with what’s just been declared as valued.

When you reward those who don’t act in alignment with high value behaviors (or worse, play favorites) you’ll lose credibility, and the trust of the organization. Support for your cause will dissolve when employees think, “Why bother?” All research shows that without trust in an organization, everything suffers. 45% of people say lack of trust in leadership is the number one factor negatively impacting the job. Your success is a product of the quality of the relationships you have with those around you. And building trusting, high integrity, personal relationships with them is the first place to start.


Let Lea help you (re-)establish trust on your team and in your organization. Contact her here.