Trustworthy leadership is in short supply. According to Tolero Solutions, 45 percent of employees cite a lack of trust in leadership as their biggest workplace performance issue. That’s not great news.
So, what makes a leader trustworthy? I work hard to maintain my credibility, strive for mastery in my areas of expertise, and back up what I say with logic and facts. I’m good at keeping my emotions in check. Those all seem like positive qualities.
But there can be a darker side. I’m also somewhat skeptical and often take a wait-and-see attitude before I open up to others. You always know where I stand, but I’m guarded when my vulnerabilities might be exposed.
Every leader has their own unique characteristics and behaviors that impact trustworthiness. Here are four things that might hold me back from developing vulnerability-based trust with others.
- Not wanting to appear incompetent. I’m often tempted to keep mistakes, self-doubts, and uncertainties to myself. That preserves my self-confident and capable image.
- Fear of looking foolish. I’m careful to monitor my words and emotions to prevent anything ridiculous from escaping my lips. After all, I have my dignity to preserve.
- Not wanting to be taken advantage of. My skepticism causes me to hold back if I’m suspicious about the other person’s motives. I don’t want anyone to exploit a vulnerability, however valid.
- Concern about appearing weak. My credibility helps me control my world. Admitting a flaw, apologizing, or asking for help, feels like I’m being weak. I worry about losing respect.
Your concerns about being vulnerable may have very different motives. Things like, fear of disapproval, not wanting to be a burden, fear of criticism, not wanting to lose influence, and fear of being disliked.
Over time, I learned how to develop habits that make me more trustworthy.
- I admit and apologize for my mistakes. This helps to humanize me with others. By modeling this behavior, others can do the same and overall work quality will improve.
- I work hard to be more approachable. Since I’m more introverted and restrained, others may find it hard to reach out. Colleagues now know they can come to me whenever they need help.
- I search for common ground with others. This is a first step toward fostering better relationships. It also allows me to work on being empathetic, something that isn’t natural.
These changes won’t happen overnight. Being trustworthy requires shared experiences and a personal knowledge of the unique attributes of your colleagues.
Vulnerability-based trust isn’t the ability to predict someone’s behavior, it’s about letting down our guard, admitting flaws, and asking for help.
Being trustworthy is the foundation for building stronger teams. When trust is present, we can disagree in the pursuit of truth, commit to decisions because we have been heard, hold each other accountable for promises made, and support the team and its work.
Trust is like glue. It bonds a leader with her/his followers and builds capacity of organizational success. How trustworthy are you as a leader? What tips or habits are you willing to share?
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