Am I Building Trust?

Previously, we discussed how some leaders create and maintain a power distance between them and their employees. Some leaders and managers go to great lengths to build an impenetrable wall or a mask of invulnerability. These strict boundaries prevent any sharing of beliefs, values, concerns even fears with their followers and employees. What do you think drives a behavior of invulnerability? The tendency is to be fueled by ego, pride, insecurity and a desire to be in control of everything. We will discuss this dimension in greater detail in an upcoming three part series – Ego, Relationships and Results, the why of Elegant Leadership. Today, we’re here to discuss the two most influential and impactful dimensions of trust building in vulnerability and transparency.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown

Fo now, let’s lean into some expert accounts on why invulnerability and being nontransparent are foundational problems inhibiting a leader’s effectiveness. In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The 5 Temptations of a CEO, leaders often choose invulnerability over trust as a way to deflect and to guard against anyone questioning or doubting their rank and authority – when in reality, this behavior has the opposite effect. To contest this temptation, leaders must encourage, inspire and welcome people to challenge their ideas. And, when they do, the Elegant Leader accepts the challenge without defense, without any negative non-verbal reaction and certainly without any retaliation – that’s Voltage! Consider the following quote as a foundational principle in leading elegantly:

When a leader can listen to someone’s input and feelings without getting frustrated or angry, they give the employee a wonder gift – They make it safe for people to express themselves.

The more employees are able to express themselves, the more they feel heard and understood, and the more they are able to give the leader the trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, respect and encouragement the leader needs.

By allowing themselves the discomfort of being vulnerable with their employees, these leaders model the way for others to also be vulnerable. When this vulnerability is met with acceptance, something wonderful happens – trust emerges. Brene Brown has said in her wildly famous Ted talk on vulnerability that it sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.  When we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

The Elegant Leader is vulnerable by seeking out feedback from others. They seek and receive feedback as a gift! They invite scrutiny of those who know them whether they work directly or indirectly with people. They encourage the examination of their work, their behaviors, their leadership, to question their motives and identify any gaps between what is claimed and how they live and lead. What happens to the people, the followers, the employees when they work with or encounter this leader? The serendipity of this scrutiny speaks volumes to the legitimacy and sincereity of the Elegant Leader. Do you think trust and respect are elevated by their actions?

What benefit is there to being invulnerable?

What happens to employees when they encounter a leader who seeks out feedback on their own behaviors?

We’ve discussed how an Elegant Leader must be comfortable in the grey – that area in scuba diving when the sunlight begins to dimish and the water’s light goes from blue to grey to black. The comfort in their own skin flows from the second crucial dimension of trust building – the willingness to be transparent. Sharing information not only to curate, but to educate, motivate and support their people is necessary if you’re to live and to lead elegantly with voltage. The Elegant Leader is quite confortable to impart any information that makes someone’s role easier, better, faster – it’s about sharing who they are. It’s not a passing whim, rather a habitual style of their interactions with their employees. It’s a pattern of behavior that flows from who they are.

The best relationships between a leader and their people are those characterized by a great mutual trust and shared information. No one is a mushroom! (kept in the dark and thrown a little shit on every now and then). The responsibility for creating this type of relationship rests squarely on the leader’s shoulders. Whether you’re a legacy leader or an emerging leader, it’s up to you to allow the discomfort of being vulnerable, transparent and trusting others with their ego. This feeling, this behavior is oh so true in the personal realm as well.

“True love is about vulnerability; allowing someone to see that you want them in your life, and trusting them not to hurt you.” 

Elegant Leaders with Voltage effortlessly drop their guard without pretense and let others into their lives. They model the way by taking the initiative and accepting the responsibility for the quality of the relationships with their people. Here are a few simple steps to implement today:

To create trust, leaders are willing to solicit feedback from others without judging or reacting. Think of a time when you received negative feedback about some aspect of your performance or behavior.

How did you respond?

An Elegant Leader, one who leads with Voltage, understands the importance of their willingness to be vulnerable and transparent. Dropping their guard and sharing their own lives with their people is vital to establishing and building trust.

How comfortable are you with this idea?

Becoming an Elegant Leader is hard! It’s hard work and easier to quit than to finish. When you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task, you may be tempted to give up. The key is to follow a proven straightforward plan.

I share nearly three decades of hard knocks, failures, successes and wisdom with you – and yes, It’s far easier to quit than to finish. Look, we’ve all been there when we’re riding the crest of the wave and suddenly our egos take an unexpected hit. You’ve been successful and you’ve also failed – plenty. And, on top it all, somehow our personal and professional relationships became different and lacking as well. Being overwhelmed by the sheer scope can tempt you to quit – so, don’t. Who will dig you out then? That’s why I’m offering a no obligation opportunity for you. Call me today 205-482-2177 and let’s discuss how to get started.


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