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Leadership is Trust

sat17jun2006—24w168d46%— 21h54m00s—0utc

I should tattoo myself these words. Somewhere prominent and unforgettable.

In my lifetime, I’ve had more than a dozen managers. It’s safe to say that many of them were forgettable, and some were awful. But the few that I admired or wanted to emulate took time to earn my trust. They wanted me to do my best work, and they knew that this was possible only if I could rely on them on a daily basis. This didn’t mean they’d do whatever I asked or yield to my opinions by default. But it did mean that their behavior was predictable. More often than not they were up front with me about their commitments, motivations, and expectations. I knew where I stood, what my and their roles were, and how much support was available from them for what I needed to do.

As a leader or significant contributor to a team, everything depends on what assumptions people can make of you. When you say “I will get this done by tomorrow” or “I will talk to Sally and get her to agree with this,” the other people in the room will make silent calculations, perhaps subconsciously, about the probability that what you say will turn out to be true. Over time, if you serve your team well, those odds should be very high. They will take you at your word and place their trust in you.

Although movies and television shows often portray leadership as a high-drama activity with heroes running into burning buildings or bravely fighting alone against hordes of enemies, real leadership is about very simple, practical things. Do what you say and say what you mean. Admit when you’re wrong. Enlist the opinions and ideas of others in decisions that impact them. If you can do these things more often than not, you will earn the trust of the people you work with. When a time comes where you must ask them to do something unpleasant or that they don’t agree with, their trust in you will make your leadership possible.

This implies that to be a good leader, you do not need to be the best programmer, planner, architect, communicator, joke teller, designer, or anything else. All that is required is that you make trust an important thing to cultivate, and go out of your way to share it with the people around you.% Therefore, to be a good leader, (pink))you must learn how to find, build, earn, and grant trust to others as well as learn how to cultivate trust in yourself.*

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