Q&A with Author Amy Lyman Author Amy LymanOne of the themes in the book is that trustworthy leaders have incomparable advantage in the marketplace. Why is this?
Trustworthy leaders succeed in the marketplace because their trustworthiness provides them with two key competitive advantages: first, they benefit from the cooperation of employees with each other, across departments, and throughout the organization as a whole; and second they engender a deep, strong commitment among employees to the long-term success of the company, its mission, and its vision as expressed by the leader.
All leaders want to promote cooperation and commitment among employees yet it is only with trustworthy behavior that these benefits can be fully realized. Beginning with honor and inclusion, trustworthy leaders bring all employees into the life of the organization. Respectful followership enables people to choose to follow their leaders, which is vital to the development of cooperation. By sharing information and developing others, leaders support their employees’ ability to make strong commitments to the organization—they provide them with the information they need and the skills to use that information to further the mission and vision of the organization. What is the stereotypical “mythical leader” and why are they less likely to be successful in the current marketplace?
The stereotypical mythical leader is the person who, through the exercise of power as control and force, faces down the challenges of the marketplace and leads his or her company to outstanding success. I say that this leader is “mythical” as the ideas for this stereotype really do come from mythology. Whether from ancient Greece or Babylon mythical stories are compelling, yet those stories do not represent the reality of what is needed for success in our current workplace environment. Yet the myth of the forceful, controlling leader as the standard to emulate continues to resonate with some people.
In The Trustworthy Leader
I present many stories—not myths but true stories – that are deeply rooted in the reality of leaders’ experiences today. The stories document the approach and strategies used by today’s trustworthy leaders who have created stunningly successful organizations in which collaboration, creativity, and innovation thrive. These leaders are visible, active role models for others who want to become trustworthy in their leadership behavior. One of the traits of trustworthy leaders is a fundamental and genuine belief in the value of others. What are some actions that trustworthy leaders can engage in to show those they lead how much they value them?
There are a number of ways that trustworthy leaders demonstrate their genuine belief in the value of others. First, they convey to people that they are important and valuable by showing a sincere interest in people first as human beings and second as employees. Providing special and unique benefits to everyone within the organization is another way in which employees gain a sense that leaders value them. These types of benefits offer much needed support to people in their professional and personal lives, affirming each person’s individual value. Training and development programs that support people’s professional development and career growth provide strong evidence that leaders are investing in the long-term success of employees. This indicates a commitment to the person, not just the immediate job they do. And, investments in professional development combined with employee involvement in decisions that affect how they do their work convey a leader’s respect for each individual.
All of these actions convey a leader’s belief that every member of the team and organization is valuable to the success of the group, providing solid evidence that when leaders say, “we’re all in this together,” they mean it. What is the role of “choice” in the leader-follower relationship?
Many times employees feel obligated to follow a designated leader because they have no choice in the matter. Yet following out of obligation leads to compliance behavior—that is, people doing what they hope their leader wants them to do and fearing the consequences if they are wrong—which is not healthy for the long-term success of an enterprise.
Trustworthy leaders do all they can to ensure that people in their organizations choose to follow them because they share a commitment to the goals of the organization, not because they are compliant or afraid. When choice enters the leader-follower relationship, employees actively engage in an exchange of ideas, information, and contributions that support the production of higher quality work. Making the choice to follow someone provides the follower with greater dignity to engage in work activities, whatever these may be. What are some examples of trustworthy leaders who have successfully navigated uncertainty to find opportunities?
In The Trustworthy Leader
, I provide examples of leaders in a variety of industries who have tackled significant challenges within their organizations, leading people through uncertain times. I profile trustworthy leaders who have faced—and moved through—particularly complex uncertainty by relying on their trustworthy leadership practices. For example:
A number of health care leaders, facing the uncertainty of diminished reimbursements and changing insurance payments, have been able to cut costs and preserve the quality of their services by retraining staff and investing in and developing people. These trustworthy leaders have been able to harness the full potential and commitment of their in-house talent, which has also lead to the development of new service offerings.
In two retail grocery businesses, key executives have continued to provide high quality services and products to customers while maintaining benefits to employees even as rising health care expenses in this low-margin industry put pressure on profits. Training and development programs have also been enhanced, along with the development of career ladders for all employees.
In a financial services company, trustworthy leaders have stayed on the high road—earning the trust of their people by continuing to practice ethical leadership, supporting employees in making the right choices, and showing that it’s not all about money and greed. These trustworthy leaders have lower turnover and higher profits at the same time that they provide greater profit sharing to all of their employees. Any organization in any industry will benefit from the positive impact of trustworthy leadership.
Lyman presents us with the 'Virtuous Circle of the Trustworthy Leader', of which Meet the Fockers' Jack Byrnes would no doubt be proud...clearly written with some interesting example.' (Management Today, May 2012) Written in a very accessible style... there is something for everyone in this book...The stories would make case vignettes for trainers wanting to run sessions in basic leadership training.' (People Management, May 2012)