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High-Trust Leadership - Leaders establish patterns of behavior that motivate others to follow

This is the third article in a four-part series addressing trust in situations requiring effective leadership. In July we covered why trust matters, and in August we summarized key ingredients to earn trust—‘the 5C’s of Trustworthiness’: Character, Commitment, Competence, Connection and Communication, with a focus on Character and Commitment. We established that for each element of trust there was a question my teams were asking about me in my capacity of Flight Leader of the Blue Ange.

AvBuyer   |   11th September 2014
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High-Trust Leadership: Leaders establish patterns of behavior that motivate others to follow. 
by George Dom

This is the third article in a fourpart series addressing trust in situations requiring effective leadership. In July we covered why trust matters, and in August we summarized key ingredients to earn trust—‘the 5C’s of Trustworthiness’: Character, Commitment, Competence, Connection and Communication, with a focus on Character and Commitment. We established that for each element of trust there was a question my teams were asking about me in my capacity of Flight Leader of the Blue Angels in order to make judgments about my trustworthiness as we flew our precision demonstrations. Your team, your boss, your vendors and your professional colleagues are undoubtedly asking the same questions as you manage your flight department. This month we will address Competence and Connection, including training tips to improve your trustworthiness, the effectiveness of your leadership and the efficacy of your professional reputation.

Competence: Are You Skilled and Relevant?
Resumes provide an applicant’s qualifications and list of previous jobs, all important factors in assessing someone’s suitability for holding a position requiring trustworthiness. In building a high performance team, however, vitally important characteristics such as qualifications and experience are not as significant as character and commitment, followed closely by the individual’s competence.

Without competence, qualifications and experience are not sufficient. And without character and commitment, competence doesn’t matter. Someone who lacks an honorable character or is not committed to the team’s success becomes a cancer to team cohesion and performance.

Conversely, if new hires “walk their talk” and are fully committed and engaged, you can teach them what they need to know to be competent.

Every day before our Blue Angel preflight briefing, I would look around the table and see the same questions in all of my wingmen’s eyes: Are you good enough to be our leader today? Are you better than you were yesterday, but not as good as you will be tomorrow? If we were going to achieve and sustain the highest levels of excellence, we all needed to continuously improve our skills in every aspect of our roles on the team.

Unfortunately, too many leaders reach a level of success and then stop learning, stop growing and lose their relevance as the world changes around them. Such stagnation says something about their character and commitment, and leads to a loss of competence. Think about how different your job is today compared with a few years ago. Will it stay the same in the years ahead?

How many leaders do you know who claim to have 15 years of experience, but really have only one year of experience repeated 15 times?

Training tip: Identify one key skill that would significantly improve your competence. Make it a priority for the next month. Repeat.

Connection: Do They Believe You Understand Them? 
Doing formation aerobatics, my wingmen and I flew only 24-36 inches apart at 300- 400mph, and at very low altitude. As the leader in the #1 jet, I could change the trajectory of maneuvers as necessary to avoid clouds, buildings and ridgelines, simply by changing the inflection of my voice on the radio. It sounds incredible, but it was possible because my wingmen knew I understood what I was asking them to do.

If there had been any doubt, there would have been hesitancy, separation and disengagement. Hopefully, such connectivity is not dissimilar for you and your team. You’ll notice the question wasn’t, “Do I believe I understand them?” What mattered was “What do THEY think?” When teammates believe they are understood by their leader, where the leader intuits their challenges, their sacrifices, their ideas and their recommendations, they will follow enthusiastically. People don’t need to get their way all the time, but they do need to feel heard and understood.

Most leaders miss this concept of connectivity, a key component of leadership, because they are unable - or unwilling - to see the world through their teammates’ eyes. Leaders can become isolated, get defensive and act too busy to pay attention. You may not agree with your teammates’ point of view, but they need to believe that you can see the situation as they see it.

The importance of connection also applies in your relationship with your boss. Does he or she feel understood? How do you know?
Training tip: Take a walk with one of your teammates or your boss this week and ask a few open-ended questions to gain greater understanding of his or her challenges, ideas and concerns. Do NOT defend, deny or seek to persuade him or her to your point of view. Seek only to show you understand theirs.

Next month we will conclude this Four- Part series on high-trust leadership with the final C: ‘Communication’. Remember, Business Aviation is in the trust business.

Captain George Dom, USN(Ret) is president and founder of NFS Advisors, an aviation consultancy that exclusively represents buyers of business jets and aviation services. During his military career, he served as Commander, Carrier Air Wing Seven; flight leader of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron—the Blue Angels - and instructor pilot at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (“Topgun”). A nationally-known speaker on leadership and teamwork, including NBAA Leadership, International Operators, and Flight Attendants/Flight Engineers conferences, he can be reached at [email protected] or www.NFSjets.com.

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