The Reason You’re Winning (or Losing) as a Leader

Why you’re winning (or losing) as a leader

Having a title under your name doesn’t mean you’re a leader.

We all know (have worked with?) people who had a title on their business card, but that no one followed.

They are the choir director frantically waving their arms, but the choir doesn’t seem to notice.

Sometimes the leader is the cranky jerk with no title who everyone listens to!

When you’re a ‘title leader’ only, people follow because they have to.

But when you are a ‘trust leader,’ people follow because they want to.  Big difference.

So, how do you move from merely having a position to actually being viewed as the leader?  How do you move from title to trust?

Here are the behaviours that help you make that transition:

Doing the right thing even (especially) when it hurts

Once people know that you’re serious about keeping your word, trust goes way up.

I remember once working with a company that did a major project in the U.S. that had serious quality problems after install.  The company had two choices:  Fix the problems and potentially run out of cash and go out of business or just walk away, let the customer twist in the wind, and deal with the legal problems somewhere down the road.

The owner was in the room with the management team during the discussion and simply said, “We stand behind our work.  Fix it.”   They did so and weathered the cash crisis.  Later that customer bought more and spread the word that they could be trusted.  They went on to massive success as a business.

Honesty is key to being a true leader.

Try taking my brand new Leadership Self Test.  It asks 20 basic questions about your leadership style and gives you a score, showing areas of strength and places to improve.  Use it by yourself or as a team exercise.  You can access it for free here:

Enforcing fairness

This comes down to simple things:

  • Do you give yourself (or your friends) preferential treatment?
  • Do people you like get the best shifts?
  • Are you consistent in upholding the core values?
  • Do you call out bad behaviour, regardless of who engages in it?
  • Are you fair and impartial?

Critical in moving from title to trust.

Letting people know that you don’t know it all

I’m a big advocate of confessing your faults to your team.  Not to inform them.  Believe me, they already know your faults better than you do!  No, you share your weaknesses to the team to inform them that you know you have them.

You do it to model the transparency and humility you expect to see from them in return.  You aren’t perfect; don’t pretend you are, and don’t put the expectation on yourself that you should be.

Pitching in and helping out

Have you ever worked for someone who wouldn’t ever help with actual work?  Good at barking orders, but too good to get their hands dirty with what they regard as ‘menial’ work?

Of course, you have to focus on leadership jobs, but it’s a great idea to occasionally

  • Get on the business end of a shovel
  • Go out on a sales call
  • Make a cold call
  • Take your turn doing the dishes
  • Help clean up at the end of the day

You do this not because it’s efficient, but to show that every job is important, and you’re not above doing any of them.

One of my favorite stories is meeting the CEO of a non-profit who casually mentioned that the toilets had backed up overnight, so he (arriving early), took off his socks and shoes, rolled up his pants, waded through the… sludge, and fixed the problem.

When I asked why he hadn’t called a plumber, he said, “That money is reserved to send overseas.”

Imagine the lesson his staff learned when that story filtered through the organization.  Just saying.

Showing care for others

It’s only a cliché because it’s so very true:

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Do people know that you care for:

  1. Their well being, their safety, their compensation, their success, their career goals?
  2. The organization. It’s health, well being, and success?

More than you care for your own ego, career trajectory, or compensation?

When people understand this about you, they’ll trust you.

Now let’s look at the behaviours that destroy your credibility

  • Dishonesty
  • Breaking promises
  • Making excuses
  • Focusing on negatives
  • Holding grudges
  • Not showing care for others
  • Being above ‘menial’ jobs

If you engage in these activities, you know your leadership is headed in the wrong direction.

So, build on your strengths.  You have them!  Make them expand!  Move from title to trust!

Getting ahead is about getting started!


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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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    2 thoughts on “The Reason You’re Winning (or Losing) as a Leader”

      1. Trevor Throness

        Ben, that is still one of the best stories ever. You are an amazing servant leader. I talk about you to others all the time, and about your example of what a true leader really is.

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