Are You a Trustworthy, Self-Aware Leader?

In our new book Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust, my coauthor, Randy Conley, and I cover a lot of topics—fifty-two, to be exact. As the subtitle suggests, a primary focus of the book is the area of trust in leadership.

To be truly trustworthy, a leader must first possess a strong sense of self-awareness. Why? Because effective leadership starts on the inside. Before you can hope to lead anyone else, you must know yourself and what you need to be successful.

Self-awareness gives you a special kind of perspective as a leader. When you are grounded in knowledge about yourself, you are mindful of the people, experiences, and values that have made you who you are as a person and as a leader. You are aware of your thoughts, feelings, temperament, and what motivates you. You know how your behavior affects others around you and how to model trusting servant leadership for your team.

Self awareness and trustworthiness go hand in hand. It’s all about leading at a higher level.

We found the best way to describe trustworthiness in leadership was to break it into four qualities leaders can use to define and discuss trust with their people. These four characteristics make up the ABCD Trust Model™.

Leaders who are Able demonstrate competence. They know how to produce results and they have the leadership skills necessary to empower and encourage their people to get the job done.

Leaders who are Believable act with integrity. They are honest, fair, ethical, and treat their people with equity. Their values-driven behavior builds trust and creates an environment of psychological safety.

Leaders who are Connected demonstrate care for others. Their focus is on their people’s needs and development. They are good listeners who share information about themselves and seek feedback. 

Leaders who are Dependable honor their commitments and keep their promises. They are accountable for their actions, responsive to others, organized, and consistent.

Along with the ABCD Trust Model, we developed an assessment leaders can use to gauge their own trustworthiness in all four areas. (Find the free assessment here.) Then, to help leaders gain even more self-awareness, we encourage them to have their team members fill out the same assessment to rate the leader’s trustworthiness. What a concept—leaders vulnerable enough to ask their people to assess them as a trustworthy leader!

I liked that idea so much, I asked my work team to fill out the trust assessment with me as the subject. When the responses were tallied, we learned that my ratings on the Able, Believable, and Connected behaviors were excellent! However, my ratings on the Dependable behaviors needed work. The reason? I’ve never heard an idea I didn’t like! In other words, I say “yes” too easily. Despite my good intentions to please people, I often found myself overcommitted—which put pressure on both my team and myself. The strategy we worked out to help my Dependable score was simple. My assistant at the time, Margery Allen, suggested that when I went on business trips and got in conversations with people, I should give them Margery’s business card instead of my own. That way she could screen callers and talk with me about what was realistic for me to say “yes” to. This process worked better for all of us and helped me become more Dependable. Looking back, I now see how that process also helped me with my self-awareness about my strengths and weaknesses in the area of trustworthiness.

It’s never a bad thing when you learn something new about yourself as a leader. You can take a tip from the One Minute Manager: If you find out you are doing something right, give yourself a One Minute Praising. And if you discover you are off track in an area (like I was on Dependable behaviors), give yourself a One Minute Redirect and get back on the right track.

The more self-aware you are, the better you will be able to serve, care for, and lead your people. When people believe their leader has their best interests at heart and is there to support them in achieving their goals, trust grows by leaps and bounds. Today more than ever, people long to follow a trustworthy leader. When they find one, they will offer that leader 100 percent of their energy and engagement. And when a leader has the trust of their team, all things are possible.

2 thoughts on “Are You a Trustworthy, Self-Aware Leader?

  1. Ken,

    Thank you for this inspiring leadership post. I think the concepts you have touched on are so important, and I am definitely interested in reading your book about how to be a servant leader. I completely agree with you in the unique concept of vulnerable leaders asking their people to rate them as a trustworthy leader. I believe this is aligns with humility and integrity. Thank you for posting — I look forward to reading more!

  2. I love that you trusted your assistant with screening new opportunities. This speaks volumes to your leadership!

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