Many engineers will be presented with leadership opportunities throughout their careers. These opportunities may come in different forms leading projects, people, or even both. Given that everyone is different it should come as no surprise that each person brings their own unique skills and abilities to be an effective leader. That said, I think there are a few commonalities typically shared across successful leaders. For me, the most important aspect of being a successful leader is trust.
"Trust is built in drops and lost in buckets" is a quote by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank that resonates with me. Having worked in multiple roles on different teams throughout my career the most important part of the relationships I built was trust. That trust was never given or earned immediately. Trust is developed over time by showing up and consistently exhibiting the behaviors that your team needs. While the process of building trust takes time, losing it can happen in the blink of an eye. For this reason, it's important that leaders communicate and navigate difficult situations with the intention to avoid needing to make decisions that will erode their trust equity.
Why is trust so crucial? Trust is an important foundation for many of the interactions teams rely on to be successful. When relationships are built on trust, commonly difficult situations become easier.
Need to share some tough news with your team? The likeliness of the team accepting the news positively will increase when they trust the person sharing the news.
Need to resolve a conflict? Trust will help the parties involved come to a resolution because there's a shared understanding of positive intent.
Need to collaborate to complete a project? Collaborating with someone you trust on difficult problems will be much easier because there's an expectation that everyone will hold up their end of the equation.
These are just a few examples of how trust can benefit many situations that we encounter day to day. I'm sure you can come up with many more.
As I mentioned previously there are many traits commonly exhibited by great leaders, but I think that starting with trust is a the best place to build a foundation for success.