Leadership Spotlight

The Connected Leader

A stock image of a group of buisness men and women talking.

Connected leaders create an environment of trust and psychological safety in which employees innovate freely without fearing failure or internal backstabbing. When such a culture prevails, individuals’ sound judgment, not processes created by management, solves our greatest challenges. A nimble mind with ownership of the outcome will always outperform a process and improve a situation, organization, and life.

When we create a workplace with effective and efficient colleagues and cut unhealthy relationships, everything soars. Performance is contagious. For this reason, leaders must always focus on healthy, emotionally stable connections for innovation, progress, and success.

Communication and candor are critical, but feedback must have positive intent, solve problems, and not create new issues. Because many employees fear group rejection, leaders should offer validation when providing growth feedback. All of us must feel psychologically safe to bring forth our most creative solutions.

When providing and receiving feedback, five principles can help leaders.

  1. Is the information meant to assist or vent frustrations?
  2. Does it clearly help the addressed individual or company?
  3. Is the feedback actionable, or is it merely an observation?
  4. Has it been appreciated?
  5. Is it appropriate to accept or discard the information?1

Leaders must model the way and be transparent with themselves as well as their own failures if they wish to build the culture of trust in which people — not processes — solve challenges through innovation. Two simple values help establish such a culture: 1) always act in the best interests of the company, and 2) never do anything that makes it harder for others to achieve their goals.2

Transparency fosters trust, while secrets create psychological discomfort. Leaders should provide information for their employees’ situational awareness so they will take ownership. With high levels of ownership, solutions and results are inevitable. Opposite of transparency are actions such as spinning the truth. Using avoidance or “spin” is a common way leaders lose the trust they seek.

Once leaders have established trust, the innovation cycle can help elevate progress.

  1. Search for dissent and socialize the idea among the team.
  2. Test it before implementation.
  3. Predict the outcome.
  4. If it succeeds, celebrate it; if it fails, highlight it and learn.3

Connected leaders know that there is no plan for chaos and the unexpected challenges each day brings forth. Processes and procedures are the starting point when faced with adversity, but innovation will propel us through to our ultimate goals and successes. Creating an atmosphere of trust where excellent judgement takes hold is the goal. What are you doing to be a connected leader?

“Processes and procedures are the starting point when faced with adversity, but innovation will propel us through to our ultimate goals and successes.”

Robin Dreeke, retired FBI special agent and founder of a communication and strategies company, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at Robin@peopleformula.com.


1 Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention (New York: Penguin Press, 2020).
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.