Of all the attributes leaders need, trustworthiness may be the most important. Followers will not commit to leaders they cannot trust. In a work situation, if there is no trust, the boss is just a boss, not a leader. When people do not trust their bosses they often find other jobs, and those who stay often do so grudgingly.
Leaders demonstrate their trustworthiness through five kinds of behaviors:
- They tell the truth as they understand it–they do not simply agree with two people with conflicting opinions just to keep the peace. Most lies eventually come to the surface, so trustworthy leaders stick to the truth and do not shade the facts to make themselves look better or to avoid difficult situations.
- They do what they promise. If a situation arises where leaders cannot follow through with their promises, they need to explain to their team members what has happened and what they plan to do about it. They must think carefully about how failing to keep a promise will affect certain people.
- They keep confidences to themselves. Trustworthy leaders know sharing confidential information is hurtful and unprofessional.
- They speak and act for the greater good. Sometimes this requires leaders to be tough to bring about changes they believe will benefit their organizations in the long run. In such cases, trustworthy leaders explain what they are doing and why.
- They are capable and get results. While the other four behaviors reflect aspects of leaders’ characters, the fifth reflects their competence to do their jobs. Leaders who are lacking in the skills and capabilities required for their jobs should put effort into building their capabilities through training or coaching. When it comes to results, leaders should be careful never to promise more than they are certain they can deliver.