Thursday, December 5, 2013

How Leaders Build Trust- They Lead By Example

"Lead By Example" seems to be one of the oldest and commonly accepted leadership maxims.  At one level this is about jointly enduring hardship....people will follow someone who they know will endure the same hardships they do. As an Army officer this often meant physical hardship....being present when it's cold or wet, or insufferably hot, or in the middle of the night or going long periods with insufficient sleep.

In the private sector, especially in a global role, it means getting out of the headquarters and visiting staff in their workplaces.  If some of your staff work in extreme weather climates, it's best to show up when it's toughest.  You time your visit to cold weather climates in the winter and desert climates in the summer.  If staff are doing their job in risky security areas, the good leader demonstrates the willingness to take risk too, by site visits.  If it is remote, you show up to demonstrate you understand what it's like to be remote.  If there are tough customer or stakeholder relationships, you show up and deepen your understanding of what the staff on the ground are dealing with and "run interference" if necessary

"Leading By Example" is more than jointly enduring hardships.  At another level it has to do the extent to which one's behaviour as a leader honors shared values.  Most companies have some version of "Honesty, Integrity and Respect for People" as core values.  There is usually a code of conduct  that covers such things as health, safety and environment;  conflicts of interest; gifts and gratuities; compliance with the law, views on competition and proprietary information, etc.    Here's a sample template of a typical code of conduct.    The point is there are usually a set of values and expected compliance with certain standards of behaviour.

Leaders build trust when they lead by example....when they "walk the talk"....both by jointly enduring hardship and by honoring shared values and standards of behaviour.

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