"I don't want any problems." I remember that line distinctly as he repeated it more than once and made it clear that was how he envisioned his role as the team leader. Sadly, that was the first speech to our group from a supervisor I once worked for in law enforcement.
It was not lost on me, nor on my co-workers, that this supervisor-I cannot refer to him in any manner as a leader-made no mention of doing all he could to support us in our mission or to aid in our development. We did not believe he was fostering a culture of openness or honesty. We did not trust that he cared about anything other than how he was perceived by his supervisor(s).
Trust, a driving component of effective leadership, is gained when the led believe their leader has their best interests at heart and wants to do everything possible to ensure that they are able to effectively carry out their responsibilities. As a leader, have you earned that type of trust from your subordinates? If so, it is more likely your team will put forth their best efforts and will also inform you of potential pitfalls affecting organizational success. If you have not earned the trust of your team, you are setting yourself up for the possibility of being blindsided by a larger crisis which may have been avoided or mitigated had your team trusted you enough to highlight shortcomings.
“Take care of your Marines, and they will take care of you,” was a leadership principle drilled into me while training to be an Infantry Platoon Commander in the early 1990s. It is timeless advice which carries over to any organization, military or otherwise. It boiled down to the Marines wanting to put forth their best efforts to ensure mission success when they trusted their leaders cared about their development, both personal and professional.
It is the same sentiment expressed by the late Colin Powell when he said “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
By creating an atmosphere of trust and honesty amongst your team members, it is more likely that you will be able to handle smaller issues before they become bigger problems. It is incumbent on you, as the leader, to foster a culture in which you are able to gain the trust of those you’re privileged to lead.
- Dan Mehdi, Eagle 6 Training