Human relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Whether it be friendships, romantic relationships or business relationships. This is about as true a statement as anyone can make. We've all heard the phrase "without trust, you've got nothing" in some form or another. Well, leaders have to bear this truth in mind more than anyone else. As a leader you are instantly thrust into a position of trust and authority, it is the unwritten rule that you are there to look out for the best interests of everyone who chooses to follow you. Therefore because of this, leaders have to take appropriate actions and ensure that trust is maintained, nurtured and flourishes. At some point this will inevitably mean making a decision that won't be popular with everyone. How you choose to respond in these situations will define you as a leader in the eyes of your people and I don't say this flippantly.
Take for example an issue that many are struggling with right now. Money and cashflow. Your company is experiencing financial difficulty, your pipeline is slowing and you need to review possible strategies for how to save on costs. You also need to keep the company afloat, preserve the workforce's morale and develop a strategy for possible ways out of the situation in the future. Let's assume your team of advisors and yourself have reviewed the facts, you've reviewed the data and considered the impact that any of your proposed decisions will have on your workforce from the C Level Exec to the cleaning staff. No one has been overlooked. Having considered all of the information available, you identify that there will in the short term, need to be some pay cuts. However you know that by doing this no one loses their job. You have worked out who can afford to take home a little less without putting themselves in difficulty via interviews and implemented the measure. Now even though you know it won't be popular in the short term, you took an action to look after all of your team, because no one is dispensable. You spoke to your team and your advisors, and you made a decision that allowed for all points of view to be considered.
The explanation and dissemination of knowledge is key here. Great leaders communicate. They may indeed be afraid of criticism as many of us are but, they know what's right for the long term and they take action with this in mind. Any good leader knows that it is the future and longer term success of an organisation that matters more than short term gain. These are the teams that win the day. What I described above was a situation in which there was the ability to avoid job losses and the goal of any leader, should be to make this their number one priority. Sometimes this isn't possible as we have unfortunately seen. Ultimately whatever action taken by a leader may result in an immediate backlash or criticism but it's vital they keep the door open, communicate whenever and wherever they can in order to outline the decisions made and why long term, they are the right ones, no matter how difficult. This human to human communication builds trust in your leadership. People may not like it, but they will understand and respect both you and your decisions. When the benefits starts to show themselves, that means you're going to be even more trusted in the future than you were previously because your people know you aren't afraid to do what's right even if not everyone will like it.
I've never much wanted to go into politics, I personally find it distasteful. But I recently thought about why that is. The truth is that I just don't want to make promises I know I won't keep, may not be able to keep, might keep in some sort of way that barely resembles what I initially said, or even put myself into a position where any of the above situations are possible. I take promises and commitments very seriously. The idea of letting someone down is something I just don't like. Not delivering on your promises seems like flat out lying to me. But how many of us can say we have been in situations where this has happened to us? How many times has this happened where that person was a supposed leader? It's incredible how common this is and well, to put it bluntly, it sucks. If there is only one thing that you take away from this piece let it be this. Leadership is a privilege yes, but a responsibility first and foremost. A responsibility to serve those who have put their trust in you. A responsibility to look out for their best interests, even if and especially when that involves a decision they may not like. Leaders understand that what's best for many, outweighs the needs of any individual.