Leaders Trust Their Leaders

Note from Alan: One of my best friends, Matt Pries, is a wise man and a great writer. I’ve asked him to share some of his thoughts about leadership. Matt is Iowa’s 2021 Coach of the Year, and many of his writings have gone viral online. You’ll read more from him over the next couple of months, as I have asked him to guest write a few blog posts. This first post pulls from one of my favorite resources, Leadership and Self-Deception. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I love that book. What you may not know is that I learned about the book from Matt.

We put our trust in people and places every day.

When I stay in hotels, I like to take the stairs because I know it’s good for me. On a recent trip with my family, we stayed on the 6th floor at two different places for six nights, so I was happy to get plenty of flights and steps. I did use the elevator a few times–when loaded down with “stuff” to take to our room or car. On one such ride, I noticed the last elevator inspection had been in November of 2019. The inspection certificate included a signature, a stamp of approval, and a note that the elevator was in good working order. Later, I looked up how often elevators are typically inspected: at least once a year with additional monthly inspections as needed. 

And yet . . . I took that elevator again. I’m not an elevator inspector, and I trusted that the person and/or company doing the inspecting found the elevator to be acceptable for use. I didn’t call anyone to complain or check to see if it was right, and I didn’t question the safety of our riding it. 

We offer such trust often in life: when we cross bridges; when we travel; when we order food; and when we purchase clothing and electronics. We trust that those doing the work are doing their best. 

However, we view trust at work differently.

Sometimes trust can be difficult in our work and relationships with those leading us and our organization.  Perhaps there is a policy we think is silly; or a leader communicates something we think we could have done better; maybe we wish we didn’t have to attend certain meetings; or perhaps leadership introduced a new initiative we think is just another hoop.

At such times, it’s worth remembering wisdom from the Arbinger Institute’s book Leadership and Self-Deception. To avoid distrust, get out of the box to view situations objectively. Through this mindset, you give leaders the benefit of the doubt, trusting they are doing the best they can in their role. When you offer trust, not only will your leaders feel more supported, you will feel better about your work with them. You’ll have a more positive view of the organization, which is what you hope those in your charge would do for you. 

Treat leaders the way you want to be treated as a leader yourself. 

Give those who lead you your best by trusting they are giving you their best. Sometimes, it’s good to take the elevator.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

Follow-up note from Alan: Every leader is in the middle, unless they are the CEO. Additionally, every leader has people who report to them and people they report to. We spend a lot of time in leadership training talking about how to do better with those who report to us. I love that Matt is reminding us to have empathy for those we report to. They’re in the middle, too.

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