On February 4, 1992 my young boss died in an airplane crash. As a consequence, the board of directors took a bold a decision and appointed me as project manager of a megaproject costing more than half a billion US$. At that point in time I was just 27 years old and lacked management, leadership, and life experience. No wonder most of the stakeholders, the client, and even teammates doubted my capability to run successfully such a demanding project.
In the course of the next six years I faced constant criticism and envy and realized that earning trust and gaining credibility accounted for the two most important tasks for not just surviving as a project manager, but also for becoming a leader with influence. The lessons I learned and principles I applied during my entire life helped me again and again to successfully overcome huge obstacles, to win influence, and to terminate some of the most complex projects on time and budget. Furthermore, I noticed that the lack of trust and absence of leaders’ credibility costs companies an enormous amount of money. Trust and credibility have a tremendous impact on the bottom line.
Dare to be transparent and vulnerable. Playing a role has never been an option, especially when I was a young manger and lacked experience. We often fear being ridiculed or are driven by the wrong belief that managers have to behave according to certain standards and patterns. As a consequence, we do not dare to stand by our values and principles, or we shy away from expressing our true opinions. If you dare to be transparent by, for example, admitting your weaknesses, then you dare to be vulnerable, which in turn earns you enormous respect. One day people will find out whether you have been truly authentic. It always pays off to stand by your principles and values.
Take risks. On one hand, your mind and especially your sub-personalities, such as fear, shame, or control, might tell you that you should not pursue a certain task. On the other hand, your heart tells you not to act differently. When it came to making crucial decisions, such as entering new markets even with limited resources, I always listened to my heart and reaped a reward. Rely more on your intuition. It never lets you down in critical situations. People acting like this show courage and earn a high degree of trust.
Be determined and make bold decisions. In today’s time of uncertainty and dynamic changes, we all tend to overanalyze situations and shy away from taking action. However, by making decisions even if we do know all the facts, we prove that we believe and we act as an example, which in turn attracts fanatical followers. This might sometimes lead to failures, but they are a crucial learning step towards real success.
Be clear and provide direction. Your employees, clients, and other stakeholders want to see leaders who know what they really want from business and life. Furthermore, I observe many people who get appointed as corporate leaders just to learn that they do not prefer to assume a leadership role. Leadership is a vocation and requires that we put true passion into a very demanding job. Hence, the clarity about what function and job we really love to accept is essential for building a solid basis of self- trust, which in turn earns you the trust from others.
Initiate results. Regardless of the degree of your challenges, tangible results are a powerful means for earning trust. Even if you have set very ambitious goals, make sure that you can break them down into smaller chunks so that you can accomplish your goal in small steps. Celebrate these accomplishments with your team or client. Even if you lack experience or expertise in a certain field, great results make stand you out as a trustworthy and highly credible person.
Remove the environment of fear. Many companies are desperately seeking means for empowering their people. Surprisingly enough, they forget to transform a fear-driven environment since they are still stuck in a command-and-control structure. Invite people to openly express their opinions and share their ideas. Listen wholeheartedly to their needs and instill the feeling that they are appreciated.
Apply clear communication. Communicate clearly and concisely. Words such as “perhaps,” “I hope,” “let’s try,” “maybe,” or just long sentences that don’t say a lot avoid the building of a trust environment and give the impression that you are uncertain. People lacking self-confidence normally beat around the bush or consume a lot of airtime for getting a message across. The shorter and clearer your message and language, the more the trust you earn from your followers. Talk as much as possible to your people and avoid emails whenever possible, because the written word is extremely powerful and its true meaning can often be misunderstood.
Be committed. Do what you promise, be on time, and deliver exactly what you say. We often tend to promise things and recognize only later that it is very difficult to meet our obligations because some circumstances have changed or we have other — more important — things in mind. Commitment means reliability, discipline, and going the extra mile so as to meet the expectations you have placed with your followers.
Be proud of your uniqueness. I learned that expressing my uniqueness is the be-all-and-end-all for earning trust. Fear often ruled my life. I was worried that I might never amount to anything; that others wouldn’t accept me the way I really am. I often agreed to everything, trying to guess at and satisfy the unspoken needs of others.
Daring to express joyfully my unique talents, principles, and values on a persistent and daily basis gained me enormous recognition, power, and trust. Suddenly I was able to tap an enormous power born out of authenticity, which nurtured the creation of really great things and ignited the fire inside other people.
Andreas Dudàs. Swiss, visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker, and expert on authentic leadership. More than 20 years experience in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Founder of the BE SHiRO Group in Switzerland and India, dedicated to empower individuals and organizations to achieve greatness through authenticity. Author of “Do you dare to be yourself? Developing power in life and leadership through authenticity." Learn more about Andreas at www.andreasdudas.com/book.