This is our first post in our May blog series exploring different aspects of siloed government. The focus of this post is trust. Briefly we’ll explore how leaders can move towards being a “Trusted Leader” – someone that people want to work with across government, emulate their leadership style and are excited to meet and work with the individual. Gaining people’s trust is no easy task. By identifying the traits and skills of the “Trust Leader,” it is my hope that we can learn what kind of leadership we need in government to cross government agencies, and work towards a more collaborative government.
There are a lot of strategies to take into consideration. I’d love to hear the traits you believe are most important, so please feel free to leave a comment for the GovLoop community. Below are five traits needed to become a trusted leader.
Know When To Row and When to Steer
Sometimes within an organization a leader is the one pulling the boat along, other times the leader is the one steering the boat, just to keep the boat on course. There is for sure a balance a manager needs to make, not to micromanage an employee, but still guiding proper direction. A good manager can do both – and knows which role they need to play and when.
Don’t Throw Someone Under The Bus
Accountability and honesty are hard to come by sometimes. If you are the one at the helm, that means you are also the one who needs to take accountability for results. It comes with the territory. If an employee is not performing well, it’s your responsibility to get them back up to speed or move in a new direction. By showing that you are willing and able to hold yourself personally accountable, trust will improve with your employees and with the various partnerships you may enter across government.
Admit Your Failure – Know What You Can Improve
I always like to reference a Bob Dylan quote, “There is no success like failure, but failure’s no success at all,” that’s the tension for leaders – nobody ever wants to failure on a project, but if you do – you need to be able to pick yourself up and take away some lessons learned. So, the lesson is that to build trust and work across government – you’ll need to have some success stories and people need to see the impact of your leadership. Trust can be built through failure, it’s learning how to navigate through stormy waters and knowing that smooth sailing will lie ahead.
Admitting failure is necessary – a trusted leader needs to show humility and compassion. I also look at leaders who say “I can do better” as a way to empower people. Some look at as a sign of weakness to admit fault, but in my opinion – the ability to say “I can do better” is a sign of a leader who I trust and know is invested in the project.
The key lesson is that leadership never stops. Everyday you can learn something new about yourself, about your coworkers and how to lead your team to success. Leaders who are reflective about their actions and in-tune with their team, they move closer to become the trusted leader. People need to feel a connection.
Allow Employees to Manage Up
Empower and encourage employees to take risks and grow as individuals – these are the kind of people you want within your organization. At all levels of the organization, you need motivated focused employees functioning as change agents.
Keep the focus on the mission and the organization. The challenge here is that although you may not want to get sucked into unnecessary conflict – you can’t avoid it. You simply can’t dismiss an employees concern, even if you may consider it petty or a distraction from their job. A trusted leader is one that employees can come to with any issue they are facing – this is critical to allow people to recharge and refocus their work.
Communication is so important to building trust. If you telework and are a manager, you’ll need to really work hard to make sure your presence is felt on the day-to-day, using video chats and periodic in-person visits. Also, you’ll need to communicate with your employees the way you expect them to communicate with the team.
So why is leadership important to silos in government? Again, trust is one of the foundations to collaboration. People want to work with others they trust and respect. By focusing on some of your core leadership traits and actions, you can build yourself as a trusted and accountable leader. The trusted leader is critical to cut across government.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas – what traits do you believe are critical to becoming a trusted leader?
Previous Leadership Council Posts:
- Leadership Is Not Programming Your Team
- Managing and Leading – Can You Have One Without the Other?
- Leadership Lessons from Jeremy Lin and the Linsanity Craze
This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Leadership Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Leadership Council to learn more.