Posts Tagged ‘trust’

Courageous Leadership

October 31, 2011 1 comment


People don’t follow titles, they follow courage. – William Wells Brown

How does it make you feel when you see someone demonstrate personal courage?

As for me, I get this odd feeling of respect and usually a strange desire to join them. Ever wonder why that is? I think it comes back to one word:


Let me explain. To have courage, you must first have fear (courage can’t exist without it). So here’s this person, in a fear-inducing situation, only they aren’t letting their fear run the show. Instead of abdicating to fear, they’re trusting their values and abilities to navigate whatever is going on. That intense trust in themselves is what draws us in.

We all have fears. Find someone who generates courage in the face of fear, and we’ll naturally gravitate toward him. Find someone who trusts she can get herself and everyone else through safely to the others side, and we’ll follow her.

Here are three things you can do in the face of fear to encourage yourself and those around you:

1. Stand Up. Take responsibility for your values and your people—not only will you sleep better at night, you’ll attract loyal followers as well.

2. Speak Up. You always have an opinion—whether you realize it or not. Know what yours is—and be ready to share it.

3. Step Up. Words and positioning are a good start, but in the end, action is what communicates your real commitment, and thus, your true courage.

I’m going to choose to be a courageous leader today. I challenge you to do the same.

Where do you need to stand up, speak up, or step up?

The Snare of “Good Enough”

October 19, 2011 12 comments

leadershipThe start of anything is exciting. Could be a new project, a new job or a new relationship. It doesn’t matter—everything is fresh, hopes are high, vision is crystal clear.

Likewise, accomplishing something great is exciting. Exceeding expectations, beating the odds, going somewhere no one else has gone. The pride, the satisfaction and the enjoyment of hard-won success.

Between the Starting and the Finishing, however, there’s a whole lot of Middle, and it is rarely—if ever—exciting. The Middle is littered with pitfalls such as Leaking Vision, Plan Fixation and Mismanaged Fear. One of the sneakiest snares is the ever so enticing, Good Enough.

Good Enough is hard to fight. After all, if it’s good enough, who’s going to require more of you? Sure, you had bigger aspirations and a larger vision, but, hey, this is good enough. Besides, other things in your life are bound to suffer if you continue, so why don’t you just stop at good enough?

The only problem with Good Enough is that it rarely is.

For that reason alone, pick the things that matter to you, and refuse to settle. Don’t compromise, blink or give any ground. Be alert to any comfort along the way that might delay or prevent you from achieving your vision.

Name any exceptional leader from any sector of society—George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela—none of them ever settled for Good Enough.

Neither should you.

Where are you settling today?

The 4 Facets of Trust

September 29, 2011 7 comments


Trust. Such a simple and complex word.

I don’t trust the guy in this picture.

I do trust my wife, who adores me. And I trust my doctor, who has a bunch of letters after his name. I trust Bob Goff, whom I’ve never actually met. I even trust the chair I’m sitting in, without even thinking about it.

One word, multiple meanings. I believe understanding and leveraging trust is core to leading at an exceptional level.

How are you at gaining the trust of others?

Here are four fundamental facets of trust and how to cultivate each one:

• Reliability. The most basic facet of trust is achieved through consistent behavior. If you regularly come through for others—they can count on you—then they begin to trust you. I consider this the simplest facet of trust, not because it isn’t valuable, but because it’s the same kind of trust we give to inanimate objects such as chairs, instruments, or tools.

• Competence. The next facet of trust is gained through knowledge or expertise. If you’ve established yourself as an authority on something, you’ve gained a level of trust with others. This is the trust you have with your doctor, your teacher, your mechanic—anyone who you believe knows more about something (that you care about) than you do.

• Compassion. This facet of trust is earned when someone shows genuine care for another person. For someone to make an emotional investment in you requires them to shift focus off of themselves and place it on you. This immediately generates a level of trust. Whenever someone shows sincere concern for your welfare, you tend to believe that they’re on your side.

• Authenticity. The most potent facet of trust is engendered by casting aside all pretense. If you’ve ever run across someone with no masks, no agendas and absolutely nothing to hide, you know what I mean. They have a realness and rawness that sucks you in and makes you feel more real, more alive. Trusting them seems as natural as breathing—and distrusting them seems as awkward as holding your breath.

Fail to provide any of these qualities and you’ll lose the trust of those you’re trying to lead. Likewise, to the extent that you successfully demonstrate any of them, you’ll gain a corresponding level of trust with others.

How do you cultivate trust?



How to Turn Compliance into Commitment

September 28, 2011 8 comments

leadership “Webb, What’s going on in the world?”

Sounds like an innocent question, right? Not when it’s your first summer at West Point and the person asking is your Squad Leader. That simple question is code for: “Summarize for me an article from the front page of today’s New York Times.”

My response should have started something like, “Sir, today in the New York Times it was reported that…” Only one problem—I hadn’t read the paper that morning. A myriad of excuses flashed through my mind—Physical Training ran late, no one else has read the paper, We didn’t have enough time—but no upperclassman wanted excuses. There was only one appropriate response.

“Sir, I do not know.”

Here it comes, I thought. I prepared for the requisite shellacking.

But it never came. Instead of fury I found something quite different in Cadet Sarabia’s eyes that morning: disappointment.

As he moved on, I was left to deal with my own lack, silently soaking up his disappointment.

What I discovered during those few minutes amazed me. I felt I had let him down. I felt an intense desire to redouble my efforts, to not mess up again, to do whatever it took. I was surprised by what he had created in me: For the first time that summer I wanted to live up to someone’s belief in me, not just avoid punishment.

For weeks, undetected by me, John Sarabia had been sowing the seeds of trust. In that moment, he reaped the harvest. He had gained something from me that all the rules and regulations, all the pressure and stress couldn’t pry out of me: My Trust. I knew he believed in me. I knew he was on my side.

John had moved me from being merely compliant to being truly committed. And he did it by earning my trust.

How are you earning the trust of those you lead? How have leaders earned your trust in the past?

Out-of-Control Leadership

September 7, 2011 5 comments

leadership adventureWe all want control.

We want to control our finances, our projects, our teams, our relationships, our future. We yearn for that sense of security that control promises. Just look around—nine out of ten advertisements are selling you some form of control.

Control, however, is an illusion and the security it offers is hollow.

Truth is, there are a million things just beyond your grasp at any given moment. The weather. The price of oil. The competition. The people around you. Your next breath.

You can respond to that truth in 3 ways:

  1. Do Nothing and be tossed around by the wind and waves of life.
  2. Try to control the uncontrollable and wear yourself out in the process.
  3. Learn to adapt to any situation life throws at you.

Exceptional leaders don’t waste time trying to change the wind—they learn how to sail. An experienced sailor can use wind from any direction to propel her boat in the direction she desires. Depending on how she trims the boat and sails, she can run with the wind, cut at right angles or even beat a course upwind. She can’t control the wind, but she can use it.

In the same way, exceptional leaders adapt to changing environments, harness the emotions in a situation, and adapt to the needs of those around them.

True power doesn’t come from control—that’s a small, limited substitute for power. True power belongs to those who can harness the uncontrollable, adapt to the inconceivable, and maneuver in the unknown to accomplish their goals.  This is true power, true security, and true freedom.

How are you at Out-of-Control Leadership?

The Power of Listening

July 27, 2011 9 comments

listen leadershipHave you ever had someone really listen to you? I mean stop what they’re doing, drop everything, and listen…to you? Remember how that made you feel?

I’ve asked that question to hundreds of people and I’m amazed at the responses I get. Here are just a few:

valued important trusted free
strong alive cared for empowered
confident brave smart meaningful

Wow. Imagine if you could create those effects in the people you’re trying to lead. Impossible? Beyond your capability? Hardly.

Every human being has the power to engender these emotions in others. Every human being can listen. It’s not always easy—there are thousands of things vying for your attention—but the ability is there. Here are a couple fundamental things you can do to become a better listener:

1. See. Before you can listen to someone you have to know they’re there. Not just their physical form as you walk by them, but the full weight of who they are and what they’re going through and what they have to offer. The first step to listening is truly seeing the people around you.

Try This: Instead of thinking of your day as a series of tasks you need to complete (as you probably already have), reframe your day by planning it out by the people you will encounter—family members, friends, bus drivers, waiters, bosses, clients, etc. Then spend the rest of your day looking for them.

2. Focus. At any given moment, your default focus is zeroed in on one person: Yourself. Nothing wrong with that, it just is. But if you’re going to lead others effectively, you must transfer your focus to others. Unless you feel safe with someone or find them fascinating, you must consciously choose to shift your focus to the other person.

Try This: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes as they speak, imagine the world from their perspective, hang on each word like they were the most important person in the world. Banish any hint of self while you listen—don’t worry about your point of view, your opinion or what you’re going to say next. Focus on experiencing what they’re sharing.

Listening is one of the easiest and most difficult things we can do. However, I can’t think of anything that has a more profound effect on people.

Have you ever had someone truly listen to you? How did it make you feel?

How to Drive Clarity as a Leader

June 22, 2011 4 comments

leadership clearClarity is a leader’s best friend.

Think about how fun and rewarding it is to serve a leader who’s providing clarity. Think about how miserable and frustrating it is on a team that lacks it.

All the marks of an exceptional leader—authenticity, initiative, trust, courage, insight—stem from clarity.

Being clear with yourself about your purpose and core values enables you to answer tough questions, make quick decisions and act with confidence. Being clear with others engenders trust and guards against misunderstanding, thus reducing friction and frustration.

As a leader, I strive for clarity in three main areas:

• Clear Thinking. When I get bogged down by unnecessary distractions, my team suffers. I need to keep focused on what’s important in the moment—our purpose, our people, the problem at hand. Exercising, eating right and getting enough rest all help me think clearly.

• Clear Communication. Poor communication can negate great leadership. It’s that simple. I could have the best vision, best solution, best intent, best plan—but if I can’t communicate it clearly, none of it matters. Understand your receiver and deliver a message on their terms, not yours. Aways get a back brief.

• Clear Conscience. Transparency and authenticity go hand in hand. The more clear and open you are with other people about your thoughts, feelings and ideas, the more believable and trustworthy you become in their eyes. And the easier it is to sleep at night. We waste so much energy maintaining our personas and facades.

As leaders we deal with ambiguity every day, but where you can, strive for as much clarity as you can with the resources you have. It’ll make life easier for you and those you lead will love you for it.

Where else do you think clarity is important?