The group was gathered around a table telling “Walt stories” from his amazing career. He would soon be retiring, and the gathering was of his team and peers from other organizations, informally celebrating and of course “roasting” him whenever possible. Walt was one of those people others respected for his leadership skills and innovation. If you spent time with him, you always learned something. There was plenty of laughter that day and then someone asked him a question which others were curious about too.

“What is the key to being a great leader?”

Walt paused for a second, looked around at everyone. Everyone wondered what he would share. Would it be about strategy, decision making, or maybe about delegation. With a smile, he said 3 words, “Just show up.”

When I heard the story, I thought to myself, “he was right.” Your presence is important, especially in tough times.

Why is showing up, your presence, so important? Look no further than the longest tenured Queen of England for the answer.

“I have to be seen to be believed.” – Queen Elizabeth

It’s been that way for thousands of years. We want to see our leaders, and when we do we trust them more.

Ask yourself, who are the 5 people you trust the most today. How many of them show up for you when needed? My guess is they all do. But I don’t believe they all live in your community. They show up in different ways, a phone call, FaceTime, Zoom, a note, a card, and yes, making an intentional visit in person.

The trust we have in our leaders isn’t high today. Recent Gallup research shows that only 21% strongly agree that they trust their leadership. Let that sink in for a minute. That means 79 out of every 100 employees trust us less than we would like to be trusted. Yikes.

That makes showing up even more important while also being more challenging as the pressure mounts for more and more people to “work remotely.”

I work from home today; I understand the desire. For the worker, it’s convenient, flexible, time efficient because you don’t have to commute to and from a place of work, and for some it allows them to work for an organization they never would have if they had to relocate. Those are all good things.

I’ll make two bold predictions for the future:

  • The trend will continue with more and more workers doing their job remotely (it’s a new reality), and
  • Successful leaders will find creative ways to show up for their team, or those they support.

Don’t try to solve this by saying, “everyone has to come back to the workplace.” That isn’t creative, it’s a unilateral decision that makes your life easier.

Showing up may take more of your time with a remote workforce than it did when everyone was “at the office.” Your presence is an investment in those you lead. Your presence makes them a VIP.

While being physically present is wonderful, a phone call or a message of encouragement in their voicemail can be equally powerful.

It’ll look different for every leader, organization, and industry. Figure out how best to show up for those you lead, and they will trust you, especially when life is difficult.

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20: 24-25

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