The latest chapter in the U.S. fiscal drama – rejection and then subsequent passage of the government’s purported bailout/rescue measure – underlines the critical roles both negotiation and trust play in effective leadership. Sound leadership is often bolstered by artful negotiation skills, whether selling an idea, an approach or tangible product. Integrity, credibility and trust are crucial components. While the absence of one can undermine a leader’s effectiveness, the absence of both – real or perceived – can completely derail a leader, team, or even an entire organization.
I was frankly surprised by how surprised our political leaders seemed to be in the wake of the bill’s failure. I’ve spoken before about negotiation. One of the basic tenets is to know your audience and have an understanding of probable outcomes. Ask yourself:
- What is the best deal I could realistically achieve in this negotiation?
- What is the likely outcome of the negotiation?
- What is the limit of my authority?
One should also consider:
- What are the intended outcomes and interests?
- What are the possible outcome and interests?
- What is my Plan B?
- What is my worst case scenario?
Our political leaders may be becoming dangerously arrogant at worst, disconnected at best. It doesn’t appear that anyone seriously considered meaningful objection to the bailout plan. Successful leaders simply cannot afford this lack of preparedness, foresight or connection with their teams. We cannot bully our people into following; we must earn that right through clear, consistent and effective leadership. It all boils down to really understanding that any credible definition of leadership must include the word “influence” in it.
Integrity and credibility also play important roles in the extent to which we support and embrace our leaders. Integrity creates both trust and accountability, checks and balances upon which all organizations depend. Albert Einstein once said that whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with the important matters. If credibility is then lacking in larger matters, the point is only further underscored. And once a fundamental trust has been breached, it is extremely difficult to recapture. Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller Blink makes clear that we recognize authenticity and trustworthiness in the blink of an eye; at a minimum, we recognize when they are absent. Leaders underestimate this at their peril when they diminish the trust of the people who count on them for guidance.
Leadership is demonstrated not by mere words, but through attitude and actions. We can only hope that our political and financial leaders understand this concept. At minimum, we as leaders need to get this on a fundamental level so we can emerge from any fray – if not stronger, then certainly wiser than upon entry.
Nina Nets It Out: “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger. Moving forward requires team support and the sweetest success is that which is a result of shared vision. Bolster your reputation and subsequent longevity: earn the trust and respect of your teams with consistent planning and preparation, through meaningful action delivered with unwavering integrity.