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Leading with trust and integrity

I am an ardent follower of the leadership style of the US Naval Academy which states "Superb organizations are engulfed by team spirit and united by common vision and action". USNA speaks of how to unleash the power of team spirit and how to maximize a team’s potential. It’s a tried and true leadership style worth learning about if you aspire to a career of building, creating and leading winning teams of productive, inspired and energized people.

I’ve found that another component to truly unleashing the power of team spirit and to maximize its potential is hiring people you trust - and then trusting them. (The latter is the harder to do as a mentor from an executive group once told me, and often the most overlooked). To really trust your team, along with providing clear and challenging top-down goals, equally important is providing full transparency so that your team can understand the business context of each goal and the value currently assigned to it. It is work to do this, but the payoffs are extraordinary.

Fully informed teams naturally motivated by the "what" and the "why", are eager to define and commit to the "how" and the "when". Accountability through daily transparency and surfacing dependencies then allows the team to quickly address issues together as they arise, which continually secures the team's commitment to getting tasks done, no matter what. Daily transparency includes providing focused environments that encourage out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions and constructive debate in which everyone feels their opinions have been heard, which helps break through obstacles in the way of getting tasks done together. (Note, it is not leadership making people "feel" heard, it is actually hearing them, weighing their ideas and responding authentically).

To get people to perform at levels beyond what they thought possible, I’ve found this one statement particularly valuable; success is the progressive realization of worthy goals, and an engaged, motivated team with a positive outlook is the natural by-product of successful execution (with successful execution defined by achieving sequential goals successfully).

When a team is inspired by what is possible, and works together to define worthy goals that are believable and achievable, momentum builds quickly with one success followed by another. Team members will take ownership of their tasks and together will often solve what they thought was impossible to achieve their collective mission. The role of the leader is then transformed from micro-managing tasks (to get them done “right”) to providing daily support to the team in vetting and understanding the risk of each step and to clear away obstacles for getting them done successfully. In short, you delegate responsibility without abdicating it. (I'll address risk assessment in another article shortly).

Finally, the greatest lesson my career has taught me is that integrity in your speaking as a leader, is the key to achieving the above. (This can be very hard to do especially given how little control a leader has over all of the variables that can affect execution, yet I still find it to be true despite today's political headlines). A cross-functional leader is accountable to a wide swath of people across the organization. Therefore every word you speak, and every commitment you make will impact the organization. It will impact stakeholders and shareholders alike. Saying what you will do and doing what you say (and being confident you can do what you say) develops your reputation in the organization that people can count on you and your team to deliver and to execute. Do what you commit to and if you have a breakdown, surface it immediately and then recommit. Since execution is always the difference between just having great potential and having results, integrity in your speaking is at the very heart of leadership (and enterprise) success.


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