We can do it, if you have my back

Posted on 07. Oct, 2013 by in Leaders toolbox, Leadership

Have my back

I’m proud to feature my first guest post, by Nadia Viljoen.

Trust is the currency of leadership. If I don’t trust you, I might still do what you ask of me, but you are my manager, not my leader.

If you are my leader I will follow you, even when I do not understand the bigger picture; if you are my manager, I will obey your instructions, up to a point.

Trust is a complex concept though.

It is the result of many interactions, it is earned, but it is also subjectively granted. Some people will never trust you, simply because they do not trust, while others will trust you blindly.

In my short career of leading and being led, managing and being managed, one question greatly determines my appetite to follow my leader: “Do you have my back?”

“I have your back!” – it conjures up scenes from epic Hollywood-staged street fights, World War II battlefields, two single men approaching a group of ladies in a bar… But what does it mean in business?

It means that you shield me from the blunt force that periodically rains down from higher up, disseminating the crux of the message in a less traumatic way. It means that you stand up for me and my projects when you meet with your peers and superiors, whether I am there to witness it or not.

It means that when I do slip up, you correct me in private and defend me in public. It means that you take the time to really listen to me and when necessary, take up a battle-axe on my behalf…even if it’s just a skirmish with HR.

A leader-follower relationship is both powerful and tenuous and the currency is trust, both ways. The relationship can deliver amazing leverage – you only need a few instances to build major trust.

But don’t be fooled, no amount of exemplary gestures will ever compensate for genuine trust and any subordinate can smell a lack of integrity two boardrooms down.

Sharing stories, Nadia