Earning Trust by being an Authentic Leader

The leaders that I coach tend to be self-aware, heart-centered leaders. They’re committed to making a difference and to leading from a place of empowering others to be their very best by employing their Strengths at work. These leaders desire the best for their people and for the companies and institutions they work for. While they take the time to reflect and work on their self-awareness, they are human and have blind-spots like all of us.

An essential component of self-awareness and remaining aligned with your core and your principles is to be open to systems of feedback. These systems can be formal, like a 360 assessment, or informal by inviting people to simply share their insights and concerns. It’s instinctive to surround yourself with people like yourself – it’s comfortable, easy and affirming to be with people who are more like you.

The slippery slope here is that you are blind to your own blind spots and ‘your people’ look more like ‘yes’ people, making honest feedback difficult to attain. The nagging question is: how and where do people who are ‘not so much like you’ and do not have qualms about giving you authentic (sometimes difficult) feedback with the intent of improving the whole for the greater good fit in? These people can offer other perspectives but can make you, and ‘your people’, feel uncomfortable. They may be regarded as the outliers and may be marginalized because their perspectives may elicit discomfort.

I see the courage and vulnerability it takes for leaders to surround themselves with people who have diverse Strengths and authentically listen, taking in the full range of feedback in service of the greater good. Being authentic and trustworthy is not for the faint of heart.

This is part 5 in the 5-part series on Becoming an Authentic Leader by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.

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Does earning respect and trust come easily? No, not at all – it requires you to be mindful. Click To Tweet

I have been exploring what it takes for leaders, like you, to become more authentic leaders. You can earn trust by practicing these four attributes: self-awareness, respect, connecting, and credibility. There are also other ways to enhance your trust quotient and demonstrate authenticity.

The greatest leaders give their people the most freedom possible to leverage their Strengths in making decisions, encouraging people to execute their authority. This is a powerful sign of trust in your staff’s competencies and it is returned with something just as powerful – trust in you as the leader. Employees who are free from over control and micromanaging acquire a sense of empowerment and confidence in leveraging their Strengths. This heightens productivity, performance, and innovation.

Authentic leaders are flexible. You need to adapt to shifting situations, maybe go off script if needed, always keeping in mind your people’s well-being. Sticking to routines or insisting on preferences shows inflexibility, which is usually self-serving. Your willingness to change plans in response to a challenge or crisis, with authentic good judgment, is a sign of your trustworthiness. You are putting your people’s best interests at the forefront, building a solid foundation of trust.

When you accept blame for errors and give credit for victories, you are demonstrating accountability and setting the stage for greater trust. Your actions place value on the most appropriate people: those doing the work. Without your people, you accomplish nothing, so be sure to express appreciation. You will be rewarded with their trust.

Finally, Accountability is key. Establishing a system of personal checks and balances conveys the importance of responsibility. Submitting to your authority and vision helps assure your people that the decisions governing them can be trusted as prudent and beneficial for everyone (catering to their inward need for safety and security). This builds trust.

You owe it to yourself and your people to continually cultivate your insights, character, and principles, as well as conducting yourself in credible, authentic ways. Strive to make thoughtful, effective decisions and powerful impressions that draw your people into an engaging and productive unity.

Does earning this kind of respect and trust come easily? No, not at all – it requires you to be mindful. But, hopefully, the alternative is unacceptable. Choose to pursue these authentic leadership traits and refine them. Let an experienced certified leadership coach assist you in the areas that challenge you the most.

What is it like being led by you? Are you paying attention to ways to build authenticity? How open are you to feedback? I would love to hear from you. You can reach me here, on LinkedIn, or give me a call.

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