A Provocative Perspective…..on a well-beaten Topic

Recently, I watched one the single most amazing TED talks I have ever seen.

Frances Frei, a Harvard Business School professor, tips the traditional perspective of ‘trust’  – as a foundational tenant of leadership – on it’s ear. She is clearly brilliant. Funny. Direct. Unassuming. And her cadence and enunciation held the audience captive until her last word.

After considerable research, I was struck by the simplicity – and also the depth – of this perspective. I also learned that the tenants of this perspective were comprehensively covered years ago (in 2014) by Adam Perlman, MD. You can read his powerful article – “The Pebble in the Pond” here – which will absolutely enrich and shift your ideas of leadership.

Regardless of who originated the idea and the concepts, Frances Frei and her co-author of their book Unleashed Anne Morriss, as well as Adam Perlman, have effectively and innovatively touched upon the well-worn concept of leadership.

I simply love – and completely endorse – the 3 aspects of France Frei’s ‘trust triangle’ (my word/description – not hers). They are: empathy, authenticity, and logic. She does an amazing job of describing these  – on her TED talk and in her book. Yet, at a high level and to hopefully entice you to dig deeper, here is my summary.

Logic – only when our constituents believe we have used rigorous logic to present an idea, or make a decision, can we build trust. We have to have quality in our logic AND we need the ability to communicate our logic effectively.  She does a beautiful job of sharing two effective ways to communicate…..and ladies, you will love her example in her TED talk.

Empathy – when we take the time to truly see and hear others. We look people in the eye. We listen deeply and carefully to what they have to say.  We rebuke distractions (aka: cell phones are not allowed in meetings) – and we put 100% of our focus on each other. It truly is ALL ABOUT THEM….100%. Many think they do this very well….yet, I continue to be appalled when clients, colleagues, and participants in a meeting continue to not only look at their phones…they actually are texting (!!) ….during one on one meetings and other forums. It is disrespectful and sends the message that their time (and lives) are more important than yours. Not a way to build trust.

Authenticity – one of the most overused and under embraced qualities. We have a tendency to mute our ‘true selves’ in fear of being misunderstood, judged, disqualified, and ‘voted off the island’. In fact, I’ve written two articles on this topic: the first in 2008 and the second in 2010.

The irony: the concepts don’t have an expiration date. In fact, they are more potent now than 11+ years ago. I will share a personal example. Years ago (literally 3 decades ago), I had a leader (a peer) tell me I needed to ‘lose’ my Southern accent and ‘ditch’ my euphemisms. Thanks to the wisdom of my parents, I did not listen to that advice. I surely integrated professional application of my authenticity; yet, I held fast to who I was…..all of who I was. And honestly, that became part of what I was (and am) known for…..authentically. We all need to have the courage to stand tall….be ourselves…and bring our uniqueness to the table.

These three aspects: Logic, Empathy, and Authenticity most certainly set the table for a strong banquet of TRUST.

And Trust is where everything starts and ends. Period.

I will end this particular blog with the definition of leadership given by Frances Frei….as I believe it is deep, relevant, and timely:

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of our presence, and in a way that lasts into our absence.”

If we indeed want to build a better company, non-profit, school, business, and WORLD….it most definitely requires strong, consistent, and ‘level-setting’ leadership….that will last LONG after we have ‘left the building’.

I would love to hear your thoughts….on trust, leadership, and all things that contribute to these qualities. Please comment below – I fervently believe we grow and learn from community.