One of the core “soft skills” that leaders look for when hiring is dependability. Will this employee show up to work? Do the job well? Reliably improve over time?
But what about dependability in a leader?
Dependability is key to creating trust in a team. Leaders who want to create a culture of psychological safety, performance, and productivity need a solid foundation of trust, and dependability is the path to that trust. Employees need a leader who demonstrates character, competence, and consistency every day, both on the job and off.
1. Keeps promises
The dependable leader follows through on commitments—every time. Do you make it a matter of honor to complete, on time, every assignment with the highest possible standards?
2. Practices good habits
Well-established productivity habits can help you follow through on commitments. If little tasks tend to get pushed to the bottom of your “to-do” list, block time to complete them so that your team isn’t waiting on you any longer than necessary. Take a few minutes each morning to review commitments, and if punctuality is a struggle, set reminders for important meetings or events to avoid being late.
3. Supports a team
Does your team feel supported? Ask them what they need to accomplish their work. Do they have the right resources and tools? More importantly, do they see you as a collaborative leader who supports them by sharing credit and defending them when necessary? When in doubt, ask, and be prepared to respond to needs your team shares.
4. Operates proactively
Dependability is proactive, not just reactive. Dependable people recognize what needs to be done and jump in where they can to accomplish more. As a leader, don’t wait for others to lead you; seek out opportunities and challenges for your team that can advance the company’s vision and goals.
One hallmark of dependability is clear, frequent communication. Make sure your key stakeholders are looped in and apprised of important developments.
6. Is self-motivated
Dependable people do not wait for external motivation or praise. When external motivation and recognition are scant, focus inward and find your own inspirations and high standards to finish your commitments.
7. Considers other priorities
Don’t become so internally or team-focused that you neglect the priorities of other people in the company. What seems insignificant to one leader may be vital to peers, superiors, or employees. Take those needs into account when you are prioritizing and planning goals.
8. Looks out for the company
How do you support the overall company goals? You can show dependability to senior leaders or the board by making improvements that align with big company goals, suggesting ways to save money, and publicly championing the company externally.
9. Pursues personal improvement
Actual dependability goes beyond daily tasks and deadlines. It includes seeking opportunities to take on new challenges or develop new skills. These challenges may not be work-related; a great deal of personal improvement can come from pursuing a new endeavor and publicly following through. Your team and others will see that you even keep promises to yourself.
10. Asks for feedback
To a large extent, dependability is a perceived concept. Ask for feedback from various sources to ensure that others see you following through on commitments and responsibilities. If they don’t, is it because you aren’t following through or because you aren’t communicating?
Dependability may not be a big, bold leadership trait, but leaders will struggle to succeed without it. Those with a high degree of dependability will find it easier to establish trust and build relationships with colleagues and teams, which helps build a strong foundation for working together and accomplishing goals. And though we may think of dependability as something one either has or doesn’t have, anyone can develop the skills to support it. With practice and focus, you can become a leader others depend on and trust.