Way back in the 1970s Peter Drucker wrote about the role of organizations in improving the lives of employees by providing high levels of “community, citizenship, and purpose” for them all. The leaders are made responsible for making this happen.

He also believed that the true definition of a leader is “someone with followers”.
Think about the real meaning of that for a moment.

A person may be in a position of authority, but unless he or she has followers that are voluntary, that follow the leader for what the leader represents in terms of vision, purpose, and character, and trusts in his values, this person is not a leader with followers, but a manager of people.
We have all experienced good Leaders (unfortunately they are rare in many organizations), and poor Managers (these are quite common). Apart from the implicit expectation that these individuals are qualified and have the skills to do the job, one of the salient differences between a Leadership style and a Managerial style is the degree of trust that employees have in that person. Successful Leaders enable a trusting environment for amazing, creative, high performance work. They create a purpose for the business, and demand high performance. Their followers will run through brick walls for them.
Conversely, Managers utilize a more functional approach to managing and do not create the right environment for interaction and higher performance. Because of safety or trust issues with the Manager or the environment, the employees do not perform to the same higher level.

Creating the environment for trust

When we feel negative emotions, we are less likely to trust others. And in the absence of trust, fear rules.

From Psychology today. Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D.
“Researchers in social psychology differentiate between two kinds of trust – affective and cognitive. Cognitive Trust is based on our knowledge and evidence about those we choose to trust. Affective Trust on the other hand, is born out of our emotional ties with others, including the security and the confidence we place in others based on the feelings generated by our interactions.”

An example

In the business context, employees are often expected to be authentic, that is, to be open in communications, and to conduct day to day work in an environment where “permission” is given to speak openly. The employees believe that it is “safe” to express themselves even when the information is not always positive.
Unfortunately, however, what can destroy this “safe” environment, is when am employee is treated negatively, criticized, or is embarrassed in a public place or meeting. This typically is followed with reactions like;

“I can never let my guard down.”
“If I open up, I will only get hurt again.”

“A person with these kinds of thoughts may construct …barriers as a defense mechanism to ensure that trust is not lost again. These barriers are often a person’s way of avoiding the pain, rejection, or guilt associated with mistrust.” – Good Therapy.
The consequences of this are that, “in the absence of trust, fear rules” (Good Therapy). The employee is a follower no more. And others in the work place also absorb the experience.
Therefore, it is really important to create and nurture a work environment and culture where employees feel safe. There are many skills to leadership, but consistently creating trust as a pillar of business culture is so important. Then employees will start to follow the leader(s), and this is the potential genesis of high-performance organization.

How to create a positive culture

Firstly, encourage an environment where the participants are able to use their talents and experience to flourish.

Nurture ideas and allow them to be objectively evaluated.

When individual performance is not up to standard, deal with this in a safe environment.
Create an organization that fosters openness, and you will have a competitive advantage.

John Holland | Learn more about John

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