PhD research identified 10 practices that build trust and unlock the path to compelling leadership. Offering trust is perhaps one of the most powerful and yet, one of the hardest. It is a practice that causes us to question the essence of our own identities.
“I will be away from next Wednesday until the following Monday but will be on email and can be contacted by phone. In my absence Steven will be Acting Head.”
I sent the above email out the day before I left. After I did I began to ponder on the message it gave. Does it say, “I am here to serve, even when I am away”, or does it say, “I’m indispensable and you will need me, even if I’m not there”?
I find it fascinating watching the inevitable at conferences, particularly conferences for leaders. At each break the mobile phones come out. Everyone checking in. “Everything ok back at work? How are you going on that project?” I know this as I too was a culprit. Perhaps it was a strategy to avoid talking with someone new, or a technique to convince myself I was important, that I was indispensable.
What happened in the days before mobile technology when the leader went away to a conference or on holidays? They couldn’t be contacted. They had to trust the troops to keep things running. Now, it would seem, we have become enslaved. Our identity intrinsically connected to the amount of time we are on our devices.
Perhaps you have given similar messages to those you lead: “When you have written your reports send them to me for checking”; or, “let me know how you get on with that client”.
Our ability to offer trust is caught up in our own perception of who we are. If we lack a certain self-confidence we need to constantly demonstrate that we are important, that people need us, that we are the one in charge, that no one can do it as well as me.
My (our) ability to be in touch at all times says that I’m in control. If I’m not in charge then my lack of self-confidence tells me that I’m not needed, I’m dispensable. So to continue to be needed, to have an identity of importance, I need to seek to remain in control.
The email message I sent out should have read, “I will be away from next Wednesday until the following Monday. Steven is in charge.”
If we are truly confident in ourselves and comfortable in who we are then we would offer trust to others, allowing them to blossom in the opportunities our willingness to be humble provides. You don’t have to lead all the time.