[February 26, 2019] Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson as a Buck Sergeant in the U.S. Army. I was calling indirect fire onto a simulated target about 400 meters from our mortar gun crews when three artillery forward-observers arrived. They told me not to worry but to note their big guns would be hitting the same target. That day they showed me how to be a trustworthy leader.
Our mortars were 81mm and had a blast radius (probably of getting killed in that area was high) of about 35 meters. That meant that an explosion from our mortars on a target 400 meters out was safe. The three lieutenants standing next to me said their 155mm ammunition had a blast radius of about 100 meters, so we were still safe. Note that we were standing on the side of a large cliff with the target down in the valley
The first 155mm round came in low enough that I heard it pass over our heads and explode close to the target center. The explosion was enough to us that it nearly knocked me off my feet. The first thing I did was give the lieutenants a firm look that could have burned through armor. “Not to worry, sergeant, that was not even close.” After a day of this, I learned that it might not be easy being a trustworthy leader but it pays off. At least we weren’t killed that day.
Some of the traits of a trustworthy leader are:
- Competence: leadership means having a solid foundation of skill, ability, and knowledge.
- Confidence: trustworthy leaders are secure in their beliefs and abilities.
- Approachable: authenticity is at the foundation of trustworthiness, never phoniness.
- Integrity: leader skills are built on the proper foundation of honesty and openness.1
Leaders are always on point. They are always out front, leading others who may or may not trust them fully. It is the job of that leader to develop the trust necessary that others will follow them; despite what may appear to be a foolish venture. They taught me that it’s not easy being a leader (I was new to it myself).
Trustworthiness is one of the key traits we find in leaders. There is no real substitution. We can quickly recognize false leaders for what they are because we see them every day.
- U.S. football coach Tony Dungy makes similar points in his article at the All-Pro Dad Experience website: https://www.allprodad.com/dungy/4-traits-of-a-trustworthy-leader/