From my perspective, leadership is not possible without trust – only obedience. People might do what you say, but unless you have established trust, you aren’t really leading.
A very wise man that I worked with a few years ago once shared this progression with me: Heart -> Connect -> Trust -> Follow. You have probably heard the idea this represents before. Understanding and applying it has shaped who I am as a principal. First, you must show people your heart. Too many leaders believe that having all the right answers is the most important thing. People don’t want to know what, though, they want to know why. They want to see your heart. Simon Sinek explores this idea of the importance of why in a Ted Talk titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth watching.
When people around you see your heart they will connect with you. It has been said many thousands of times, but relationships are what matter. When you connect with someone, you begin to form a relationship. As a leader, my goal is to foster relationships akin to family. We may not have chosen each other nor our circumstances but we can chose to support each other and to work towards a common goal.
I must value the input of everyone on the team – that builds trust. I must find a way to say yes as often as possible – that builds trust. I must shield others from as much bureaucracy as possible and back them when our superiors and outsiders question them without good cause – that builds trust. I must allow others to make mistakes in the pursuit of growth and excellence – that builds trust. You see where there is trust, people follow.
If you want people to follow you, show them your heart, connect with them, and earn their trust.