The Fundamental Beliefs of a Trust & Inspire Leader
Command & Control leaders have a narrow, restrictive view of people and of leadership. Their beliefs about others are limited, deficient, and outdated—relying instead upon labels—and their actions usually match those beliefs.
By contrast, Trust & Inspire leaders have an expansive view of people and of leadership. Their beliefs are rooted in enduring principles of human effectiveness—and their actions match those beliefs. Their behavior flows from a deep well of beliefs that are part of who they are as a person.
Each of us can become a Trust & Inspire leader through understanding and acting on the following fundamental beliefs:
- People have greatness inside them… so my job as a leader is to unleash their potential, not control them.
- People are whole people… so my job as a leader is to inspire, not merely motivate.
- There is enough for everyone… so my job as a leader is to elevate caring above competing.
- Leadership is stewardship… so my job as a leader is to put service above self-interest.
- Enduring influence is created from the inside out… so my job as a leader is to go first.
The 3 Stewardships of a Trust & Inspire Leader
The fundamental beliefs of a Trust & Inspire leader are based on timeless and powerful principles. As with all principles, these beliefs are not surprising. In fact, you’ll likely find that many you agree with, or at least hope for. What makes these beliefs powerful is that Trust & Inspire leaders don’t simply agree with them intellectually—they consistently live them.
A fundamental belief of a Trust & Inspire leader is that leadership is stewardship. Put another way, leaders are stewards. Stewardship is a responsibility that implies the highest level of trust, or being entrusted. When we have a stewardship mindset, we have been given a job to do, and we’ve been entrusted to see it through.
The 3 Stewardships of a Trust & Inspire leader are:
- Modeling—Who You Are
- Trusting—How You Lead
- Inspiring—Connect to Why
Many leaders are one-dimensional. They might do well on one of these stewardships but fall short on the others. Many good leaders are two-dimensional. They offer a more complete style or picture, but one that is nonetheless incomplete. People are looking for leaders who embody all 3 Stewardships: leaders who model, leaders who trust, and leaders who inspire.
#1st Stewardship: Modeling, or ‘Who You Are’
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. —JAMES BALDWIN, AUTHOR AND POET
Becoming a Trust & Inspire leader requires continual self-evaluation because it begins with you. Just as an airline asks you to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others, you cannot be effective in raising those around you if you don’t work on yourself first.
“First who, then what,” Jim Collins smartly advised. Truly, who you are matters. You can’t fake being something you’re not. People will eventually see through it. The longer that takes, the bigger hit you’ll take when they do. “Fake it till you make it” might be an understandable starting point for some, but it’s not sustainable over time. It is also not enough to focus on improving your outward skills or trying new tactics to increase engagement. Skills cannot replace character. Tactics cannot replace competence. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to try.
Regardless of where you might be as a leader, take heart in knowing that you can start working on any of these behavioral virtues today. Part of the beauty of modeling is that it doesn’t require anyone besides yourself to start. You can choose to model humility and courage, authenticity and vulnerability, empathy and performance. None of this is dependent on another person. Everyone is a model; it’s up to you what you are modeling.
#2nd Stewardship: Trusting, or ‘How You Lead’
Trusting starts with the belief that there’s greatness inside each person and that our job as a leader is to unleash that potential. Trusting also acknowledges that the power is in the seed, not in the gardener. As with a seed, we don’t create the potential; we merely nurture what is already there by creating the right conditions for the seed to flourish. For the potential to be developed. For the results to be realized.
Trusting creates the right conditions. Trusting ignites people by waking them up and inspiring them to be better than before. It helps the team, the organization, the family. How much more willing will children be to help with chores if they help design how chores are shared? Giving trust to people, even to children, gives them the opportunity to grow while resulting in better ideas and outcomes than you could have produced on your own. Nothing is as inspiring as an offering of trust!
When you start with trust, you’re able to go so much further, faster. And leaders need to go first. Think of it as the “First-Truster Advantage”: when we are the first to extend trust, we are also the first to reap the benefits of doing so. We also transform the nature of our interactions, relationships, and teams by being the first to extend trust to others—something that is typically recognized, appreciated, and valued.
#3rd Stewardship: Inspiring, or ‘Connecting to Why’
Nike: Athletic apparel
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.
*If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Starbucks: Coffee shop retail chain
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
Disney: Media and entertainment
“Creating happiness through magical experiences.”
How much more might you feel compelled to contribute when you believe your work serves something larger than yourself? How much more committed, engaged, and inspired might you be? What’s the difference? Connecting to purpose, connecting to why it matters! The potential for meaning is there all along; people just have to see it and then connect to it. Once they do, inspiration follows.
Here’s the extraordinary opportunity—and challenge—for us as leaders: we can create and embed purpose, meaning, and contribution into almost any role in almost any organization. The essence of any organization is relationships with a purpose.
Consider this: perhaps the single greatest compliment another person can give you is to tell you, “You inspire me.” That compliment inherently has all the other compliments within it. If you inspire people, it also means they respect you, they value your life and experience. They trust you. There’s something you’ve done that they are reaching for, whether you’ve accomplished some great task or simply demonstrated some important quality they feel drawn to. They might feel you connected them to a sense of purpose—or they simply might feel you connected to them. In some way, you’ve brought greater meaning to their life.
When people tell you that you inspire them, it gives you a sense of stewardship to see them succeed. You want to help fuel their success; in fact, you begin to want nothing more than to see them become the best version of themselves. Not because of a reward, or a bonus, but because to help another person improve his or her life brings meaning to your own. This motive of caring—this ethic of service—is what drives a Trust & Inspire leader.
The New Way to Lead in a New World
As the walls that separate our public, private, and inner lives are becoming increasingly thin, the premium on how we lead cannot be overstated. While leadership is a choice, the reality is that all of us are being called on to lead, regardless of whether we seek leadership. We lead at work, we lead at home, we lead in our communities, and we lead ourselves.
Becoming a Trust & Inspire leader is first about becoming a Trust & Inspire person. That’s applying the inside-out process to ourselves. We begin by recognizing there is greatness in people—including in ourselves—and that people surround us in every dimension and aspect of our lives.