How should leaders go about building trust? One approach can be found in the pragmatic and easy-to-recall model, the Eight Axioms of Honest Leadership. An axiom is an idea that is “so self-evident that it is accepted to be true without any controversy.”
In simpler words, an axiom is something for which we do not need proof because we already know it to be true. The most common use of axioms is to test mathematical theories. A starting point may be: “When an equal amount is taken from two equals, the result will be an equal amount.” Now it does not matter what your perspective is—this is fact. Similarly, others will say: “The whole is greater than the part.” This also is true.
Therefore, having a set of so-called leadership axioms makes sense. It is not necessary to question if it is possible to demonstrate behaviors described; rather, ask how and when. The model collates the traits and behaviors that represent trust and honesty, and therefore those that should be experienced from leadership who are concerned with building honesty and trust. These behaviors are grouped together into similar headings, each of which represents one axiom. Numbered from one to eight, the behaviors come together into the easy-to-recall acronym, FIDELITY:
Eight Axioms of Honest Leadership, David Watkins, 2013
We should not consider these axioms a list of tasks to plan and do. It’s important to use our skills, personality, and behavior to move around the axioms depending on our particular scenario and context. Therefore, we must work at anchoring these axioms into our subconscious and daily activity so that all or some can become habit. Our aim should be to achieve “habitual honesty” in our leadership.
The words of Hanna van der Put, the Chief Integrity Officer of ABB, make a fitting conclusion. “It is not about rules. But about developing and working with integrity. Integrity is about behaviour.” Honesty and building trust is a never-ending job; you have to maintain your focus and continually question yourself and monitor your actions. So what are you waiting for?