Leaders: Believing In Your People Is Critical For Success

Believing in people is critical to a leader’s level of influence. Believing in people is also key to the success of both the leader and their team reaching their true potential.  However, a leader cannot have influence without believing in their people. Belief cannot exist without trust.  And while trust needs to be a 360 degree commitment between a leader and their team, it starts with the leader. John Maxwell says, “Here’s the bottom line; people will more likely follow and be loyal to leaders who can correctly demonstrate the answer to these 3 questions. Do you care about me? Can you help me? Can I trust you?” So how should a leader go about answering these three pivotal questions? 

The first quesThe first questions is “do you care about me?” This is a very important question for any leader who wishes to be successful.  A leader’s success comes from the people they lead. The leader needs to become aware of who their people are and their unique giftings.  Leaders need to care enough to understand how well and how efficient their people do their jobs.  These are basic tenants of leadership. So, why is it so hard for some leaders to understand that if people don’t think their leader cares about them or understands them; they don’t give their best effort. Why? It is because there is nothing to motivate the team to put forth their best work other than their own work ethic or fear.  And understand,  people can become so worn down in a negative environment their work ethic will erode over time. As for fear, it is a toxin which fuels motivation only for a moment in time, only to destroy it in the end. 

So what does caring look like? It starts with becoming aware as a leader. Becoming aware of who your people are is the first step towards positively influencing them. In  Maxwell’s book, “A Leader’s Greatest Return, he quotes David Augsburger, noted author. Augsburger says, “ Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person that they are almost indistinguishable.  Listening draws people to you, which works better than trying to push your leadership upon them. Empathy builds trust.” Leaders need to understand who their people are.  This is accomplished by listening to them.  And this does not mean focusing on how one is going to respond to what is being said. It means listening while trying to put oneself in the speaker’s shoes.  It means trying to see things from the vantage point of those you lead. Listening opens the way to understanding.  Understanding leads to connecting and connecting forges trust.

The second question is “Can you help me?” This question points to one of the foundations of servant leadership.  Helping people requires serving them. Robert Greenleaf, father of modern servant leadership, encourages leaders to ask themselves the following questions: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? A quality leader needs to ask their people how can they help them grow? What do they feel they need for personal growth and professional development. Leaders should seek out  the little things which makes their people feel appreciated and accepted in the workplace.  But it does not stop there because servant leadership is a 360 degree effort. In his book, Infinity Game, Simon Sinek ask us to “think of an organization as a plant.  No matter how strong it is, no matter how tall it grows, if it cannot make new seeds, if it is unable to produce new leaders, then its ability to hire for generations is nil.” In short Greenleaf and Sinek are saying competent leaders will encourage their people serve others in the work place. This is yet another way a leader’s level of influence is enhanced. When exerting influence in this manner, the leader is reproducing themselves. They are creating leadership seeds as their people serve others in a 360 degree fashion including: subordinates, fellow peers and even their leaders.

The last question is “Can I trust you?  Will you as the leader be there for me?  John Maxwell points out that, “Without trust, influence is nothing more than coercion and manipulation.  Integrity cannot be purchased on a whim; rather, it’s shaped by each ethical decision you make. Your integrity is your responsibility. It’s an inside job, the cumulative effect of your choices in life. Integrity matters, because it’s the gateway to trust, and only by establishing trust can you gain the right to influence others.” Too often, managers and supervisors default to using coercion and manipulation, as well as fear, to motivate performance in the work place. Coercion and manipulation erodes a leader’s level of influence. While there may be some temporary success, in the beginning, it is short lived. People working under the yoke of coercion, manipulation and fear simply have no incentive to do more than the minimum to get a task or project done. “When leaders are willing to prioritize trust over performance, performance will follow.” (Simon Sinek). With this in mind, leaders should endeavor to make trust, in the work place, a leadership priority.

When a leader successfully answers the questions: Do you care about me and can you help me they open the doors which lead towards answering the last question; can I trust you?  Remember listening draws those you lead towards you as a leader. Listening gives way to understanding. Understanding promotes connection; which gives the leader influence. Positive influence yields trust.  And trust is critical to leader and subordinates alike.  Choosing to take the time to listen, to understand, to intentionally connect, “without manipulation” are choices which determine the leaders’s integrity. And while integrity is the leader’s gateway” to gaining trust. It is also the means for a leader to maintain trust, as well. So trust and believe in your people, so you can begin to positively influence them in integrity.