To earn trust, keep your word.
Dale, control division manager for a large sheet metal company in south central Washington, told Session 5B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"Back in1991, the company I worked for, the Yakima Valley Pepsi Cola Bottling company, owned four plants in south central Washington: Yakima, Tri-cities, Walla Walla and The Dalles, Oregon. The general manager at the plant in The Dalles was retiring and the assistant manager had been promoted to general manager. The new branch manager called and offered me the assistant/ service manager position which I enthusiastically accepted even though it meant relocating my family. I was very excited and told all of my family and friends. We began making plans for the big move. The general manager told me that he would arrange for me to be flown down to The Dalles and they would introduce me to everyone at the branch and show me around the area.
A couple of weeks passed with no word back, I contacted the general manager in Yakima to ask him about my new position. To my shock and amazement, he informed me that the assistant/service manager position had been filled by the retiring general manager's son who was a driver at the plant. That day, all respect I had had for the general manager disappeared.
One year later, I resigned from the company because the general manager had taken one of the drivers and promoted him to the position that had been promised to me."
We cannot know all of the story, the whole story here. From all appearances, the newly appointed general manager was somehow pressured into giving the assistant service manager position that
was promised to Dale to the son of the retiring general manager. This is not too shocking. We have all seen similar acts of cowardice. What must be understood is that there are no isolated acts for a leader. Here we have a new general manager everyone is watching, sizing up and speculating about the choice, and everyone is trying to understand the new rules of engagement, the new ground rules. This new general manager's job, like mine and yours, is to earn the one thing no one can be decreed by appointment – he must earn trust and respect. What he did was, from all indications, a cowardly act. If this is true, if he was just keeping an agreement with the previous general manager, by granting a special favor to his son, he lost the respect of all who knew what he had done, probably even the young driver he promoted.
Never compromise your principles, your ideals. Of the 15 Leadership Principles, the foundational principle is Leadership Principle #1 - Lead From High Ideals. We all slip up, we all make mistakes, and often we are judged unfairly. The best we can do is to honestly live to the best of our ability, up to the highest standard possible. Remember, the first quality of a leader is courage, not cowardice, and the first principle is principle, not practice.