Leadership by Trust

I have been taught a lot of different leadership styles over the years but I have come to realize that they all (should) boil down to Leadership by Trust.

“Find Your Leadership Style” is a course I took, and eventually taught, at many a Boy Scout training in my youth. There was delegation, autocratic, democratic, leadership by example, and a few others. But what we didn’t talk about very much at any of these trainings was trust.

I have come to feel that trust is an integral factor in leadership and teaching.

I remember my Scoutmaster telling me once that I can rely on people to meet the expectations I have for them. If I don’t expect them to take any initiative, then chances are my leadership style will reflect that and my group will never improve.

If I never trust the people I am working with to do their jobs well, I will never empower them to become better workers. For example, if I only ever give out very specific tasks, then I am cultivating a society of mindless minions. If I say “call the pizza place at 5:30 and ask that they deliver the pizza for the event at 6:30, then meet the delivery driver outside and bring them up the stairs to the room“, anybody could do that. But if I say “we need pizza for the event” or, better yet, “can you handle arranging the food for the event?” then my colleagues become collaborators on the project rather than obedient peons.

This is hard to doNot only does it require abdicating some power, but also it requires a flexible vision. Trust is one of the hardest things to cultivate in ourselves.

And sometimes I am let down when I trust people. And it is frustrating. But the rewards of the trust investment are far higher than the risks.

Trust is perhaps most important in teaching. As a flute teacher, I spend one hour per week with a student which constitutes about 1/27 of the average student’s practice time. That is 3% of their time spent on solo repertoire alone. If I factor in rehearsal time, my time with a student is closer 1-2% of their total playing.

The rest of the time I have to trust them to do what is necessary to get better.

The act of trust is really an act of clearing space. Space in which someone can make their own decisions about what is best for them and for their team. Sometimes they will be wrong but chances are they won’t make the same mistakes again if they have taken ownership of their actions. Without

It is in the trust space, I believe, that people can grow the most. Without it, they just turn into mindless robots.

(Image retrieved from incimages.com)


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