One of the best ways to undermine authority and trust is to say one thing and do another and while this may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, I think it is all too easy to do as a leader.
Often as leaders we want everything to go well. We want to make sure things are done right and we often have an idea of where we want to go only to find that with new information we need to change direction. I think most people understand that this kind of thing can happen and are willing to roll with the changing environment. What can get us tripped up as leaders is when we fail to communicate the change in situation. Often we feel this is justified because we are too busy trying to get ready for the next meeting or get caught up on the 1000s of email messages that have flooded our inbox.
The problem is that our failure to communicate the changing landscape can inhibit the ability of the people we lead to adjust to that change in the landscape. They make plans based on it and we do them a disservice when we don’t communicate those changes.
Unfortunately those changes can undermine their ability to rely on us and if we do it often enough it erodes the trust they have in us so much that our ability to lead them deteriorates to the point that we are unable to lead them anymore. From there one of two things happens as a result. Either they leave us or we are forced to leave them. Neither is a welcome prospect since we joined together for a good reason and it is possible the reason still exists. It’s just that the relationships have deteriorated so much that we are unable to function as a team and a new one must be formed to either solve the same problem or move on to another problem.
The image, titled Eroded”, was taken by “Stephen Edmonds”. You can find it on flickr.