Good leaders teach others to fish

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Workplace culture has a big impact on levels of motivation, engagement and performance in the workforce. It is estimated that 70% of this ‘culture’ is shaped by an organisation’s leaders, including behaviour, actions and ethics. At the top of this list of key attributes is trust. Having a trustworthy leader who also places trust in their team is an essential ingredient in creating a healthy and enthused workforce.

Yet a large number of leaders admit difficulties in building a culture of trust, especially when so many of today’s workforces work remotely. When it comes to managing their employees, leaders tend to subscribe to two philosophies:

  • Keeping a tight rein on their team so that they know employees’ every move and can instruct them daily on their responsibilities.
  • Heaping too much responsibility on their team and offering very little guidance. They instil too much trust in their staff and keep them at arm’s length. As such, they all too often fail to understand how well their staff are performing, with some leaders unsure on the whereabouts of their employees from day-to-day.

The truth is that neither approach is effective in instilling trust in staff, either through stifling motivation or lacking guidance and accountability.

Inspiring trust in staff requires a ‘walking the walk’ mentality from leaders at the top. Leaders who practice what they preach, achieve results, who set a good example and meet expectations are those who earn the respect of employees. Other attributes that make a good leader include:

  • Listening to employees and understanding their concerns.
  • Encouraging employees to speak up and offer their ideas and suggestions.
  • Following through on commitments and promises.

Good leaders engage regularly with staff, helping to coach and support them, as well as setting a good example for them to follow. It is not about controlling staff but trusting and supporting others to achieve high standards. The best of leaders understand how to marry company goals with individual ambition and skills. As the old saying goes, “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” At the heart of this saying is the essence of good leadership.


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