This afternoon Anthony Weiner finally admitted that he did indeed send questionable pictures of himself, in various modes of undress, to a woman in Seattle. In admitting his folly, the congressman stated that he would not resign because he did not feel the scandal would affect his work as a lawmaker.
What???!! Is he really serious? I know he is not really that naive, is he? If you’ve ever read John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership you know about the Law of Solid Ground – it’s called TRUST! Leaders can make mistakes – everyone does, but leaders who purposefully or repeatedly violate trust with people cannot continue to influence them; and without the ability to influence a leader cannot lead.
According to Maxwell, TRUST is the most important thing a leader has – the foundation of leadership. So, how does a respected Congressman repeatedly claim that his Twitter account was hacked by someone who sent lewd pictures to make him look bad and then admit is was all lies and expect to continue leading? For over a week Weiner repeatedly changed his story searching for solid ground but failing to realize that only in trust do you find solid ground.
But merely being truthful is not enough to build and sustain trust. Consider the following story; a leader of a small manufacturing organization had several change initiatives being implemented across the organization, but, as usual, he was extremely busy and traveling a lot. To say the least things were hectic.And in that hectic-ness he made 3 seemingly innocent unilateral decisions. Now keep in mind that these were relatively small decisions, but decisions that impacted a lot of people in the organization. The sad thing was that all 3 decisions were the right decisions to make. So, what was his mistake? It was the way in which he made those decisions.
Ordinarily this leader would rally the troops, establish the vision, allow time for questions and then give his leadership team time to exert their influence over others. Then, when the timing was right, he would pull the trigger and make a general announcement to the organization about the changes providing reassurance and encouraging employees to be part of the new vision. But he skipped those vital steps and went directly to the decision making – ALONE.
So, what do you think the result was? MISTRUST. The leader violated his employees’ trust and it showed. People know when you make a mistake and they hang out to see if you’re going to admit it. Leaders who do often can regain trust. In this case, this story has a happy ending. This leader had enough leadership capital that he was able to turn the situation around by publicly apologizing to his employees and asking for their forgiveness.
Now this story isn’t only about trust, it’s also about change management. To effectively manage change – the people side of change- leaders have to first have credibility. Then they have to assess the organization’s readiness for change and then patiently work to build awareness, desire, knowledge, and ability within their ranks. This busy leader did none of those and the change initiative experienced a false start resulting in a lot of lost time and results. Lastly, leaders must reinforce and reward employees for implementing the change – otherwise it won’t stick.
And that’s not the only kind of change that trust affects – trust is like a bank account. Each time a leader makes good decisions they earn deposits into their leadership account. But when they make bad decisions, it results in a withdrawal. And if a leader has more out-go than income, they eventually overdraw the account, losing their leadership clout – in other words, they’re out of the leadership business.
Leaders that make good decisions and have a history of making good decisions continue to rack up deposits in their account so even if they make a huge blunder, it usually won’t result in an overdraft. The question is – has Anthony Weiner built up enough deposits in his leadership account or will he be bankrupt as a leader?