Thoughts on Trust, Politics, and Leadership

The basis of a well-functioning team is trust.  Trust that the team is working on the right objectives, in the right ways, for the right reasons.

Trust breaks down when politics come into the picture.  Trust breaks down when previous actions (on the basis of politics) makes people question the motives behind a leader’s decisions.  Trust breaks down when the method of implementation seems ineffective or merely symbolic.  Trust breaks down when the team does not see the leader having sufficient domain expertise to make the right decisions.

As a leader, think about what your words and actions communicate to your team.  Do you demonstrate that you care more about politics and empire-building than the mission of the team and the effectiveness of your execution?  Do you demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and are able to make the right decisions (or defer to experts who can help you make these decisions)?  When you ask your team to go above and beyond the call of duty, will they think that it is for the right reasons, to achieve the right goals, and in the most effective ways?

If not, what is the cost of corroding your relationship capital?  Is it worth the symbolic gesture, the political statement, you make?  Or will the other party call bullshit as well?

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