Be visible, show you care and take action. Three in-your-face attributes/behaviours that people expect of leaders today.
Tough at the best of times, these three are even harder when executing on tough decisions – such as restructuring, right-sizing, redundancies, relocation, and in the face of austerity and allocation of major investments. In these circumstances, the visibility of leaders, their genuine demonstration of care and understanding of those affected and the way in which they take action can make or break whether their decisions are seen as fair, working for the good of all.
And that’s not all!
A fourth attribute responds to today’s deep cry for leadership: trust. Consider the Trust Equation:
Credibility means able to do the job – to be visible, competent, qualified and experienced. Far beyond being good on your feet and a great communicator, even beyond being a clear thinker and decision-maker, the key question is “Can you do the job?” In our celebrity and inclusive /engagement culture, leaders must be careful to not promise everything people want to hear knowing they can’t deliver. Unexplained under-delivery erodes credibility.
Intimacy means able to build relationships – to show that you care. Key question: “Can you relate to me as a human being?” It’s about building relationships, about relating to people on their own terms, about listening to their needs, about engaging with emotions. However differently we express intimacy – in person, by phone, through Skype/Zoom, through email and the written word – our ability to relate to others is at the heart of their ability to trust us.
Reliability means able to deliver, to be consistently true to promises – to take appropriate action. Key question: “Can you make it happen?” Circumstances can challenge promises and demand a change of plan. For those who do not like to change decisions once they have been reached, especially for those who think deeply before making decisions, it is foolish to pursue a strategy that becomes untenable over time. Also, to quote Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” As leaders we must communicate changes clearly so that ‘a change of tack’ is not seen as a ‘U turn’, so that a change of direction does not erode reliability.
Self-interest means that the individual is ‘in it’ for him/her self – for personal gain, for personal glory. As the denominator of the equation, the lower the self-interest, the less it erodes trust. “We need leadership” is a heart-felt cry from people who want their leaders to focus first and primarily on them and their needs as a collective, leaders whose self-interest is low.
“We need leadership!” is a cry for leaders who can be trusted – who are visibly credible, who are reliable in their actions, who care and are intimate (as much as needed in the situation and by those we lead) and who are low on self-interest.
How do we as leaders stack up?
Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone is a trusted business adviser, a strategy and leadership development expert, a certified executive coach and a Partner at Rathbone Results; Rathbone Results: 020 8798 0175; firstname.lastname@example.org.