Researchers Kimberly Nei and Darin Nei studied data across thirty independent studies to examine the relationship between personality and ethical leadership. They wanted to know what leaders should do to build trust with new teams.
They published their findings in a 2018 Harvard Business Review article called “Don’t Try to Be the ‘Fun Boss’ — and Other Lessons in Ethical Leadership.” Here is a summary of their recommendations.
1. Be humble, not charismatic. While charisma can help you command attention and engage others in your organizational mission, too much charisma can get you in trouble. The authors claim that too much charisma will lead to a reputation of self-absorption and self-promotion. “The team may start to worry that you will no longer do what is best for the team or organization, and that you will instead do what is best for your own agenda.”
2. Be steady and dependable. For your team members to trust you, they need to be confident you will remain true to your words and deliver on your promises, all for the good of the organization. Exercise good judgment, take calculated risks, and adhere to organizational principles.
3. Remember that modesty is the best policy. Although it can be nice to be the boss who is informal and lighthearted, people expect a degree of responsibility and professionalism from the boss. Keeping some distance between you and your team sends signals that you “are there for their professional benefit and that they can rely on you when needed.”
4. Be vigilant. Typically, the first few months in a new leadership role is a time of observing, learning, and adjusting. During that time, leaders are mindful of and intentional about the impressions they are making on others. As they become more comfortable in their roles, they pay less attention to these things. The leader’s “dark-side tendencies” can emerge and interfere with success. Successful leaders stay vigilant and seek feedback on an ongoing basis. Nei and Nei remind us that the personality characteristics that lead to our promotions to leadership positions are not always the ones that lead to success in the new role. They maintain that “spending too much time trying to get noticed or having a ‘win at all costs’ mentality to get ahead can put you (and your team) at a higher risk of engaging in unethical behavior. Having awareness of your surroundings and an understanding of the ways you influence your team will help to keep yourself (and your team) on track.”
–Excerpt from Taking Stock: 10 Life and Leadership Principles from My Seat at the Table. Available on Amazon.com