Showing commitment engenders trust

If you are a leader, you must gain the trust of your team if you are going to excel at getting results.  For some people, trust is gained over a period of time. Sometimes, time is not a commodity you have at your disposal, especially if you have been seconded into a role. Or if you have been brought in to spearhead a project for example which has limited time-span.  Commitment and the length of time you spend in your role can be a big deal for your followers.

Limited timing can be perceived as a lack of commitment

After the retirement of a respected and long-serving senior leader, his new bright-eyed replacement newly selected for the position visited the team.  The arrival of the thirty-something female whose career had been fast-paced and widely reported was met with eager anticipation.  Not only was she completely different from the outgoing leader; she had a liveliness about her, which together with her highly acclaimed reputation, gave off an air of professional brilliance.

Upon her arrival, her new team were excited, hopeful and welcoming.   But the buoyant mood didn’t last. Within an hour the atmosphere had changed considerably.  In her opening speech, the new leader announced what she hoped to achieve in her time with the team.  In the same breath told them her intention was to stay for two years, by which time she would be moving on.

The team’s optimism was crushed

In the new leader’s mind, she was being upfront and honest with them.  In their eyes, she was planning her exit even before she had opened the entrance door. It showed she lacked commitment. The deciding factor for her followers was that the two years term suited the requirements of the wider organisation. They concluded it had nothing to do with the leadership task at hand.

Whether you are committed or not may not be in question at all for you as a leader.  The question and the doubt raised by longevity in terms of your leadership might be more of an issue for your followers.

Followers welcome consistency

In this fast-paced world, corporate and team leaders come and go.    Founder leaders of established companies are more likely to stay and give their followers welcome consistency.  There are many stories where founders have exited their leadership roles and their “dream” by selling out and moving on. Only to find the business fails or falters within years, if not months, of their leaving.  Given the rate of change both in the business world and as our own goals and dreams change, what role does commitment play in our credibility as a leader?

I believe that whether you are trusted as a committed leader depends on many factors. As a leader, you must fully understand the depth, length and purpose of the commitment required of you.  Additionally, you need to be clear about the possibilities of your leadership term being terminated early for you. Also, the circumstances in which you might choose to leave before time.  Crucially, in the beginning, middle and end of your term of leadership you plan, communicate and position your intentions.

Principles of commitment

As a leader, several principles are relevant in communicating and positioning your commitment in different circumstances.   Commitment is a crucial aspect of your leadership role which gives your followers the certainty they need to be able to develop a relationship with you and grow in trust.  You must position your particular leadership commitment so that you can manage expectations.

  • When appointed for a specific leadership challenge, be clear about your outcomes and be prepared to see it through to the end
  • When appointed for a specific task, determine the part or phase of the task you will lead on, how long that will take and exactly which outcomes you will be responsible for delivering.
  • If you aren’t sure you will be reappointed, commit to a dedication to the vision, values and mission of the company while you are there. Be clear about your leadership outcomes during your first term
  • Where you are a founder, a dedication to your own values and vision and a promise to do all within your power to put in place a sustainable plan after you leave.
  • A commitment to your followers that you will do the best you can for them while you are there
  • A commitment to doing your absolute best no matter how long your term as a leader lasts

Your followers will sense your level of commitment

I had no doubt that the new leader described above was committed, albeit for a predetermined period.  In retrospect she could have positioned her commitment to two years with a clear vision about her legacy, and what she could do for her followers in that time.

If you lead your team it’s vital you position your commitment.  If you doubt your commitment to any role, no matter how long it is then your followers will pick this up.  What is true for everyone, whether in a leadership role or not, if you doubt your propensity to stay the course, then simply commit yourself for a day at a time.  In that way, you will retain your focus as will those around you.

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