In his book, From Leading to Succeeding: The Seven Elements of Effective Leadership In Education, Douglas Reeves names Trust as the necessary second element. Dr. Reeves states: “Leaders can be forgiven for many mistakes as long as their colleagues trust them.” Dr. Reeves goes on to say that leaders must follow a higher standard of professional and personal relationships. It is critical that leaders do what they say they are going to do. Dr. Reeves relates the work that has been done by Dr. Michael Fullan around wrong drivers in a system. These include giving rewards and punishments rather than capacity building, promoting individual rather than group decisions, elevating technology investments over quality instruction, and offering fragmented solutions rather than integrated systemic solutions.
No person is perfect and everyone will make mistakes. What sets the effective leader apart is that leader’s willingness to acknowledge mistakes quickly and openly as well as the lesson learned. Indeed, learning from mistakes can improve a leader’s decision making process. Dr. Reeves final way for leaders to build personal trust is by their willingness to confront who conflict with their values and the courage to address problematic situations. Getting conflicts out in the open is critical for building the trust needed to be a successful leader. When individuals violate the expected values, norms, and behaviors, it must be addressed by the school leader.
Finally, in Kouzes and Posner book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, the authors relate credibility is the foundation of leadership. Dr. Reeves provides great wisdom for the leader to consider: “Part of earning trust is not only taking personal responsibility for the performance of the team and organization but also being sufficiently vulnerable to the inevitable criticism.” Vulnerable leaders are willing to share their mistakes, weaknesses, and failures. Leaders who talk about their mistakes demonstrate courage and trust in built by leaders who acknowledge and learn from their mistakes.