In modern-day organizational life, people expect many things from their leaders but dependability is not a word high on the list.
People expect power plays, unreasonable expectations, skillful politics, and my-career-first sorts of attitudes. But not dependability.
And that is precisely why dependability is so important.
Bottom line, when a leader is dependable, it creates a sense of safety in her followers. And safety is something that is in short supply these days – in our workplaces and in our culture at large.
This is not a ‘soft’ skill. People who feel unsafe act in self-protecting ways, which shuts down collaboration. Often, they are dishonest. And that makes sense; when you feel your security is on the line you are going to be tempted to protect yourself above all else.
But when people feel safe, they are free to give and free to risk and free to innovate.
One of our client companies is committed to safety for its people. Not just workplace safety, but emotional safety.
Over the last few years, a number of its employees have endured personal hardship. In some other companies, in several cases, these employees might have been candidates for dismissal.
But this company values people to such a degree that it is willing to come alongside and support them during difficult times, offering reduced workloads for temporary periods, counseling support, and patience. This benefits the employees involved greatly but other, non-affected employees as well. The message: you can depend on us.
This is not to say that there is an endless reserve of patience and that production and the bottom line do not matter. But the organization is more than a machine – it is a community.
Dependability involves leaders coming through on their commitments, honoring the values the organization claims, treating people with both individuality and equity, and genuinely caring for employees as people who have families, lives, interests, and needs that are outside the scope of the organization.
When people feel safe they can venture beyond themselves. This is what allows them to belong, contribute, and to make a real and lasting difference.