When I read Dan Rockwell’s blog The 7 Judgments All Leaders Face, I was impressed by how Rockwell categorized these 7 judgments into 2 essential qualities of leadership—warmth and competence. Those aren’t the adjectives most people would use to describe leaders. Although I would tweak these qualities slightly (to trust and competence), I believe these are worthy of further discussion.

Perhaps these are more important to me because I define a leader as anyone who has followers. (That means that anyone could be a leader, regardless of their title.)  I really like that definition because the focus is on needing followers. It becomes evident as to why these qualities are so important when you think about how followers feel. Why would anyone want to follow someone who they don’t trust or believe is incompetent? The answer is they won’t.

How do you build trust? You can’t just say, “Trust me.” It’s something you have to earn. You need to demonstrate that you are trustworthy by what you do: your professionalism, integrity, caring and knowledge (PICK) over time.

  • Professionalism is how you do what you do.
  • Integrity is adhering to high moral and/or professional standards. It’s doing the right thing even when you know no one is watching or will ever find out.
  • Caring requires taking action to show that you are compassionate and that you have concern for others.
  • Knowledge refers to what you know and have learned. It’s not just the diploma you have hanging on the wall but the ability to have some insight. I believe you’ll never have enough knowledge, that this is a lifelong process.

Building competence is also something that takes time. Being competent means that you are good at what you do. This doesn’t mean you’ll never make mistakes. One of the disadvantages to being a leader is how “public” your mistakes often become. But that’s okay. It’s how you handle those mistakes that separate great leaders from mediocre ones. Great leaders will publicly acknowledge their mistakes—and emphasize what they learned from the experience. They create the right environment for their followers. They encourage risk taking. Because if you don’t take risks, then you’re not progressing. You’d either be stagnant or regressing. That’s not what leaders need to do. Leaders need to lead to something.

If you’re like me, you want to follow those leaders who possess both trust and competence. I personally know leaders who meet these qualifications and respect them. How I wish members of Congress and those running for President would give some more credence to both of these qualities!