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A company’s leadership team was frustrated by the “me first” behavior where knowledge sharing, collaboration and going that extra mile was scarcely seen.  Beyond fulfilling the assigned tasks, there was little energy and passion for the work. Their immediate response was for supervisors to get tougher and demand more collaboration, commitment and energy from the group.

The truth is that these team members (and your team) are paid for their hands, arms, legs, brains and eight to ten hours a day, but their hearts, ideas, commitment, passion and creativity are things that must be volunteered.  A leader can’t order or demand commitment.

This act of volunteerism is almost exclusively based on one thing…trust.

A willingness to trust is critical to a relationship in which your shared work can thrive.  As you work to lead a person, team or organization, what you really want is for them to place the “fine china” of their life in your hands.  This “fine china” is commitment, creativity, passion, extra effort.  They will only do this if they trust you and they say to themselves, “I am heard,” “I am understood,” and “I can trust this person.”

This is the point where real and lasting influence happens and authority is granted because of who the leader is as a person, their character and not the power or position that you holds.

Here is an initial road map to follow to build a foundation of trust with those you lead.  Please be aware this is some heavy lifting and you’ll need your heart for this work more than your head.

  1. Humble yourself – Trust building leadership must not have an “I am above you and I will show you the way” character.  The foundation for trust is laid in the humble recognition that we share in this work together.  This identity is often formed more by action than by words. Be willing to take on whatever the team may need even if what’s required might be perceived as beneath your title.  When a difficult problem or situation arises, put your hands into the matter—not to meddle, but to help accomplish the goal. When a situation calls for “all hands on deck” the leader’s hands are included.
  2. Listen – A client recently boasted about his “open door” policy.  After a little investigation, I learned that very few people actually walked through the open door. Trust building leadership proactively creates opportunities to really listen to those they serve.  In those opportunities, listen for what is said, what is not said, and what is between the lines.  Our tendency is to jump to problem solving but listening that builds trust will result in the person or group saying, “I’ve been heard” and not “All my problems have been solved.”
  3. Connect – When you connect with the people you are leading in the midst of your shared work, you have an opportunity to build trust. Connect by relating to what you’ve heard.  Share a story about your our journey that is similar to theirs. This results in them saying to themselves or one another, “She gets me.”

If you really want your team’s “fine china” this is work that will become a core part of how you show up to lead every day.

What’s the cost of this trust-building leadership?

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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