If leadership is a bond of trust between the leader and the led, how do you build that trust?

The Armed Forces Officer (National Defense University Press and Potomac Books Inc. 2007) provides guidance to those who lead in the most challenging environments. Those recommendations are easily adapted to every leadership environment.

Leaders set and enforce the standards: Establishing the expectation of performance is easy. What you do when the expectation is not met can be more difficult. Most importantly, your action or lack of action determines the true level of performance the organization will attain. How do you enforce the standards you set as the leader?

Leaders set the example: This one sounds like a no-brainer; however think how often you point out how your superiors set a poor example. Are your subordinates doing the same? How well do you set the example? If you expect honest and transparent behavior, do your subordinates see you withholding information in making a presentation to the boss? Do you skirt the rules because “rank has its privileges”? Take a few minutes to honestly assess yourself. If your subordinates acted exactly as you do, what would be the outcome?

Leaders model moral courage: Have you experienced a leader unwilling to take a moral stand and do what was right so they did not rock the boat? How did that change your view of them? Moral courage means doing what is right, even when the consequences may not serve you well. Identify an individual in your organization who regularly demonstrates moral courage? What do you think of them? How do your subordinates grade you on moral courage?

Leaders build and sustain morale: You are leading a high performance organization, working hard, producing results, and delivering on time. But is your team truly a team or just a collection of individuals. Does the team work together and demonstrate that the team is more important then the individual? Do team members step outside their assigned roles to assist others? How do they talk to others about the organization? Quantifying morale can be challenging, however when asked, subordinates will readily make it known how they feel about the team.

Reflecting on these four actions will provide an assessment of your leadership. If you are looking for some actionable feedback, you may consider soliciting input from your subordinates by asking: “How well do I …? Please provide specific positive and negative examples.

Everyone already knows the answers – except you.