Many experience leadership and loneliness as Siamese twins. Yet this role would actually offer a wide range of access to others. And the higher someone climbs, the less he trusts feedback from others - loneliness increases. Obviously, a self-sustaining cycle works here. But can it be broken?
According to popular belief, the air at the top is getting thinner and thinner. This means that in hierarchically organised companies more and more power, responsibility and recognition come together in one position, the higher up it is. This is why the competition between candidates for these positions is particularly fierce. And in this battle, one is well advised to trust other people only very carefully. Otherwise the hard-won position will be lost very quickly.
Fortunately, these Machiavellian patterns of behaviour are not (any longer) necessary everywhere. Nevertheless, the question remains as to whom leaders can and should actually trust. Here too, the vernacular has a piece of advice: “Trust, look who! But what should one look at when trusting?
Ask yourself: who do you trust and who do you trust less? When do you decide whether you can trust someone? To this question I usually hear answers such as “yes, you can only tell over time” or “I rely on my gut feeling” or even “that’s really just a matter of attitude”. You have probably heard such or similar answers or even used them yourself. This brings us to the question of how trust actually arises. How do you strengthen your trust in others? And how do they make it easier for others to trust you?
In the beginning there was the word.
Injuries are dangerous. This applies not only to physical but also to mental injuries. Therefore we humans try to avoid them: We walk carefully in the dark so as not to stumble. We have airbags, seat belts, emergency exits. We listen to other people and put ourselves in a favourable light. I’m sure you can easily give other examples of how we try to prevent injuries.
This behaviour is human and therefore it is also evident in the operational environment: cooperation suffers when employees do not trust each other. This makes it all the more important that you not only succeed in gaining this trust, but also in strengthening it (and giving it to others). The following picture summarises how you can succeed in this:
Trust is created at the intersection between everything you say, announce, promise and what you actually deliver. This is perfectly understandable and actually quite simple: if your partner does something different than what he or she (once) promised, your trust will immediately disappear. How painful was the experience when you were lied to for the first time by your daughter or son? You will probably never forget that moment.
So we can now close the gap to the loneliness of the leadership role. Just look at who is doing what he/she has said. This implies that you should hold back from telling others what to do, but give them the opportunity to express these planned steps themselves. In this way you will promote a sense of responsibility and release far more energy in employees than by simply giving instructions. And how do you manage to do this over and over again? By asking questions! If you ask questions, you usually get answers. “Who can contribute what to reduce waste in production?”
Ask more questions! Train yourself to ask useful questions and thereby recognise the power, strength and significance of a question to strengthen mutual trust. This is not just wishful thinking, but experienced everyday life. In exchange with peers, many leaders receive diverse, helpful and competent answers to their questions. Answers that are based on experience. Of course, this does not mean that they are easily transferable to other situations.
That is not the point. The point is that the questioner and the respondent can trust each other because they are actually in the same boat, so no one is going to punch a hole in it. Because these two parties do not know each other personally, there is no competition that could distort or undermine this exchange. And because these questions and answers are read and evaluated by many others - they are thus given a seal of approval, so to speak. No one has a motive to lie, cheat or deceive others. But they all want one thing: to break through loneliness.