The Glue of Leaders

The Glue of Leaders

Have you worked for a leader who you loved for who they were, warts and all?  It’s likely the component that brought such loyalty was trust.  Leaders who build trust with their teams are more likely to succeed. Furthermore, the team much more likely to perform at a higher level, and even praise the leader for who they are, even with weaknesses because they know in their heart of hearts, they can trust the leader.  Let me share an illustration of what I mean.

Years ago, I was heading back from California after completing a satisfying Toastmaster conference in Cambria.  I had to work the next day, and I wanted to make sure I returned home early enough to settle in, get some things done, and relax for a fresh start on Monday. Needless to say, I was a person who often exceeded the speed limit on the freeways in order to reach my destination sooner when urgency required it.

As I came down  the hill toward the Nevada Stateline, I always look for CHP’s (highway patrol) as I enter the valley. All was good until I glanced back into my rear-view mirror and suddenly saw a CHP in a Dodge Challenger in my rear-view mirror. He was close enough that I could read his license plate. He came out of nowhere. At this point I was pretty much done!!  Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, and about to get cited for doing well over 90 mph. How would I handle it?  The only thing I could think of was to tell the truth and take my lumps. 

As I had done many years of leadership training, the only thing for me to do was accept responsibility for my actions. Essentially taking leadership for my transgression. I thought to myself this is going cost me a bunch, as the officer was slowly walking up to my car. I already had my license, registration, and proof of insurance in hand, ready to take my lumps.

He asked me where I was headed in such a hurry. I had no excuse, so I surrendered and explained to him that I was coming home from a Toastmaster event and wanted to get home so I would get some things done before the weekend was over. He went on to tell me that he had clocked me at well over 90 miles an hour. “Yes, I know”, I responded. I had to be honest with him.  He went back to his car, checked for warrants, and came back to me and asked me for my name, and address and if I wouldn’t mind filling out a small form with my signature.  He then told me he wouldn’t be writing me up. He told me he appreciated that I was honest with him and was willing to accept responsibility for my actions. He reminded me to drive the speed limit the rest of the way home. The last thing he said was to enjoy the rest of your weekend. I thanked him for letting me off the hook, and that I was grateful.

Here is a peace officer in a position of authority, and certainly a leadership figure. This could have easily ended much differently. However, I believe because to trust and respect for the truth, this officer was willing to let me off with a warning.

As a leader it is important to build relationships based on trust in order to bring about the best possible  result in any situation. A leader who sees something that must be corrected can beat up the person committing the error, and likely would,  if authority and a reminder of who is in charge is preferred. However, I transformative leader would likely have already created a level of trust with employee’s allowing for their people to openly admit a failing or transgression… out of loyalty and respect. Trusting that the leader would do what was best for all concerned.

Trust, it is the glue that holds all leader-follower relationships together.


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