Trust : What's Propping Up Your Leadership?

Sam Allman, President of Allman Consulting, is an internationally recognized motivational speaker, consultant, trainer, and author.

For almost two decades, he has been one of the most in-demand sales speakers and trainers. He has helped countless companies bring their employees and managers to a higher level of productivity and performance.

For more information, contact Sam at 770-425-2142; e-mail: and visit .

Let's compare leadership to a Greek temple. The foundation is trust --- people will follow a leader voluntarily only when they deem the leader trustworthy. Leadership is the result, or roof. What do the two pillars that sit on the foundation and hold up the roof represent? These two qualities of leadership they represent are like and respect ---- we follow leaders whom we like (or love) and respect. One pillar alone cannot support inspiring leadership.

Striving to be both liked and respected, of course, is no easier for a manager than for a parent. These two goals naturally pull away from each other, rather than towards each other. They are another set of contraries in the field of leadership - another reason why it is so difficult to become an inspiring leader with inspired followers. "The best leaders have the ability to finesse the contraries of leadership." It requires experience and intelligence to extract the maximum benefit from both goals.

You have natural inclinations to either want to be liked or want to be respected. Let's look at the means to both ends. If you naturally like to be liked, you probably know how to be liked. You probably use these ways: "To have a friend, be a friend." Or, "To become interesting, become interested." We like people who ask us questions about what we have done, what we believe, what we intend to do, how we feel, and what's important to us. We like people who show concern for us, who listen to us and actually hear what we mean (despite our incomplete expressions). We like bosses who have empathy for the unique challenges in our personal lives.

Studies show that workers produce more when they feel their bosses empathize with them as individuals. "Insensitivity to others has been found to be a primary reason that formerly successful executives become derailed." Who derails them? Their subordinates! Leaders at the top stand on more precarious ground than those below. If your subordinates don't like you, they may be sabotaging your leadership. They may even be glad when you fail!

If you naturally seek respect over friendship, then you know how to generate respect. ONE CAUTION: Do not confuse respect with fear. Don't try to push employees passed respect for you, and into the realm of fear of you. (Dictators usually freeze employees' initiative.)

If getting respect for yourself is foreign to your nature, consider these tactics. First, dig into your own experience. Think of those leaders or bosses you've respected! Imitate with your followers what they did for you. Likely, they considered you capable and held you accountable to produce somewhat beyond what you thought you could. They reviewed your performance in detail, praising the good and objectively showing how to improve the bad. They didn't trample on your self-image, but they expected results.

Likely, these respected leaders were professionally competent . . . and confident of their abilities. Likely, they also trusted you. They shared important and confidential information with you, so you could do your job better. Likely, they held a clear vision of what you all, together, could achieve when you combined your abilities into a team effort.

You will gain your followers' loyalty only if they both like you and respect you. If followers don't like you and don't respect you, they will be openly critical and will seek to sabotage you. If they like you, but don't respect you, they will follow you for a while, but only at a distance. If they respect you, but don't like you, they will undermine your projects and even your career. However, if they both like and respect you, they will serve you as loyal employees. They will feel your concern for their welfare and your confidence in their ability to produce great results. Your support will empower them to reach new heights.

Is your leadership upheld by being liked? Being respected? Both? Finessing these two contraries is one of the most difficult challenges in leadership. But, when you learn how to extract maximum power out of these two opposites, the rewards are great!

© Copyright Sam Allman 2004

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