A key ingredient of any leader is the capacity to build trust. Yet some leaders act like a raven: versatile yet opportunistic and feeding on just about anything. So, how can you tell if you can trust a leader? How does one know a leader doesn’t think of them as carrion?
First, trust is not a matter of intelligence. Many leaders confuse manipulation with leadership. Ravens, by the way, do quite well because they are able to manipulate their environment to suit their needs–they eat anything. To tell if you can trust your leaders, ask yourself if they behave (behavior, not words, is the real test of leadership) or engage in the following manner:
• Do They Make Eye Contact? If a leader doesn’t look at you, they probably don’t mean what they say. Take no excuses. Demand to be treated like an adult.
• Do They Laugh? Good leaders laugh (though not in a sarcastic way) because it conveys the message they are comfortable with those who report to them and wish to build rapport. Leaders willing to laugh also do not take themselves too seriously and generally won’t go ballistic on you.
• Are They a Good Listener? If they aren’t listening and it’s all about them, well, it’s all about them. You may as well not even be there. Just say yessir’ and get it over with.
• Do They Ask Questions? Leaders who ask questions are usually interested in what you have to say. Asking questions can also dispel the notion of having a hidden agenda.
• Do They Ask Leading Questions? If your boss is asking questions with the answer built-in (like many journalists do these days) they don’t really want to hear what you have to say. Example: “So, you agree with me that…”
• Do They Learn from Their Mistakes? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Good leaders learn from their mistakes.
• Do They Ask Questions that Begin with ‘WHY?’ These kind of questions put people on the defensive, exhibit an appalling lack of empathy and are often rightly interpretable as accusations rather than questions.
• Do They Confront Unethical Behavior? There is a right way and a wrong way to lead.
• Do They Make Helpful Statements? Good leaders ask probing, helpful interrogatories such as “Help Me Understand” or “Tell me more…”
Good leaders are also kind, courteous, thoughtful and deliberative. And a real leader generally waits for the other person to speak first.