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Leaders, walk the talk

by Kumar Parakala August 13, 2012

“Great leaders always recognise the importance of trust in leadership.”

Successful leadership is an intricate combination of various skills and behaviours. However, amongst all the core traits most essential in a leader, credibility is widely considered the foundation of great leadership. In the current market scenario, organisations are consistently under pressure to innovate, increase profitability and retain their employees. Most leaders are under pressure to perform and project growth every quarter. In addition, these leaders face an unrealistic expectation of keeping all the stakeholders happy, sometimes this can be an impossible task.

In this race to meet expectations, leaders often commit to things they don’t mean or act in a manner that is inconsistent with what they are saying. When a leader constantly gets into a habit of misaligning their words and actions, people stop trusting them. Thus, their integrity takes a dive and their ability to influence others is overshadowed by their actions. This leads to employees getting disengaged and merely going through the motions at work with very little commitment to the organisation or its goals.

A good leader inspires people to exceed their potential and push themselves and in turn the organisation to greater heights. To do this, a leader must show them the way by doing it themselves. They need to display authenticity, no matter how tempting it is to say things that are either not true or cannot be fulfilled. It is important to remember that, people always trust and follow those who are “real” in their actions and words. Winston Churchill is an example of this behaviour. As the war time Prime Minister of Britain, he had the difficult task of leading a country that was constantly under attack. He became one of the greatest Prime Ministers by never hiding reality from the people, no matter how bad or difficult the circumstances. He always made promises to address the situation and acted consistently with his words. His leadership helped Britain win the Second World War as people rallied their support to Churchill.

In today’s world, leaders are required to constantly drive change so that their organisations can survive and flourish in an uncertain global economy. The fortunes of several organisations have changed overnight as their leaders face the daunting task of changing the course drastically to survive. There is a long list of such organisations that were once global business icons. Fundamental to surviving such changes is a leader’s ability to inspire others by being honest, upfront and gaining the trust of the people they lead so that they can drive the agenda for change. Therefore, a leader needs to lead by example and always match their words with actions. This establishes trust within teams. After all, it is important to remember that whilst people are always willing to trust others, it is very easy to lose their trust and extremely difficult to earn it back.

Great leaders always recognise the importance of trust in leadership. This can only be maintained if leaders “walk the talk”, which means they:

  • Do not make commitments and promises that cannot be met;
  • Are willing to make commitments for what is best for the organisation and its people;
  • Always put interests of the organisation and its people on higher priority over self interest;
  • Are willing to communicate in an open, honest and transparent manner, not just as required but proactively;
  • Own up when things don’t go as planned rather than blame someone else;
  • Never take short-cuts or manipulate others to get to an end.

In essence, successful leaders live by their word and their actions. They strive to be honest and clearly state the facts to their employees and make every effort to live by the expectation and standards they expect of others. In other words, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.”