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Trust: your biggest asset in a crisis

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Shirley Bridges has two job titles: chief information officer (CIO) of Delta Air Lines and president and chief executive of Delta Technology. She describes herself as a “servant leader.”

None of these labels quite describes how Bridges handled three events around the time she was named CIO: (1) the company lost its previous CIO to another firm, (2) Delta filed for bankruptcy and (3) the company embarked on an outsourcing evaluation. Not happy times.

“Any one of those was enough,” Bridges says. The one thing she could leverage “was the fact that I had been here for a while so people knew me, they trusted me. My biggest job was to overcommunicate about everything that was happening.”

Here’s the philosophy that drives her leadership:

“People don’t buy into a vision. They buy into a leader, and then they buy into the vision. So if you haven’t built trust throughout the organization, then no matter what you stand up and tell the people, they’re not going to buy into it. They’ve got to buy into you first.”

Her strategy:

“My first step was making sure that everybody knew me, trusted me and understood where I was going. Then, once I explained where we were going, they might not have liked it, but they understood it and they could get behind where we had to go.”

—Adapted from “Powerplay,” Faith Chukwudi, Black Enterprise.

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