Great strategists inspire and encourage; they help people and organizations improve, maybe even more so than they ever thought possible.
Unfortunately, this is not always the type of leadership that people experience. In my experience in the military, many leaders have stood before formations and delivered messages that got people excited to go out and complete a mission, but excitement and inspiration are completely different things. As service members, we are mission-driven by nature. From day one, I was trained to always put the mission first, to never accept defeat, and to never quit or leave a comrade behind.
I will not begin by putting a timeline on how long it takes before people start to trust a new strategist. Every person is different, and every strategist is different as well. As a strategist, my priority is earning the trust of those who I serve and lead. Here are six pillars to consider:
Trust begins with clarity. People are very open to what they understand. Therefore, if as a strategist you can provide clarity to what your common goals are, you have already taken the first step to earning your customers, subordinates, and supervisors trust.
Secondly, as a strategist you must communicate compassion and understanding for those you serve at a deeper level than face value. They must see a true and transparent investment in time, energy, and thought leadership. If this means traveling across the globe to be present in the middle of a crisis, this is what must be done to communicate compassion and understanding.
Thirdly, and this is very important, you must be a person of character. It is not easy to be a person who says and does the right thing, especially when nobody else wants to, but it must be done.
In my opinion, character is the absolute critical aspect of being an effective strategist. It will not only affect those who you are in charge of, but often creates the opportunity to influence those who collaborate with you as well. Mentorship, as an example, often communicates character.
The fourth pillar of earning the trust of your customers, subordinates, colleagues, and supervisors is competency. This is not just about doing your job well, but more so the manner in which you do your job. Competency in strategy is more than what school you attended or graduated from, and is definitely more than what constantly firms you used to worked for. Competency is the results that you lead your team and organization to achieve that improved the overall performance of your people and your organization that brought value to your customer and community.
Competence communicates to your customers, subordinates, colleagues, and supervisors your ability to improve the overall organization and your potential for greater responsibility and results. It builds trust throughout the organization, and is invaluable in building relationships which inspire others who are willing to follow you.
The last two pillars of earning trust of those you serve and lead, go hand-in-hand, and they are commitment and consistency. Commitment as a strategist means being the individual who is committed to guiding the process no matter the short term political, economic, and social fluctuations, because the vision is what is needed for organizational growth and/or transformation. Consistency as a strategist means being known for reliable and constant thought leadership and producing harmonious strategic guidance that produces strategic positioning opportunities.
There’s nothing more important to the relationships you build than proving you are consistent and committed as a strategist to the vision and mission of your organization, your stakeholders, your team, and your mission.