Among other things, the Year of COVID hatched quite a lot of distrust. People lost trust in politics, medicine, government, employers and much more. The erosion of trust is bad news for leaders. Of all of the foundations upon which strong leadership depends, trust is the most important. The spine.
The pandemic and its aftermath doesn’t change how leaders go about building trust. It remains essential to demonstrate reliability, competence, sincerity and good intentions. The importance of transparency is even more vital.
I have always advocated for exposing vulnerability among leaders. It is a powerful trust-building practice. But during the pandemic I found that openness about vulnerability was even more essential.
The leaders who enjoyed the greatest success with crafting and maintaining trust during COVID revealed to employees how the pandemic was affecting them personally, as well as their families, friends and colleagues. The fear among some leaders is that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. But it’s just the opposite. Offering windows into vulnerability broadcasts strength.
This practice should not evaporate as versions of pre-COVID workplaces take shape. Today’s rate of change is extremely unsettling, even though in the United States we increasingly view the pandemic as recent history rather than today’s news. Trust-building remains just as vital.Shrink from making assumptions about how well you are trusted; assume it needs work. The phrase “lead by example” is a good one. Keep it close. When it comes to strengthening trust, honoring the phrase is even more important.