A Leader Reads [#100Days]

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The Eye of the World - Chapters 14 & 15 [#100Days, Day 13]

The Speed of Distrust

Lan's constant admonitions not to trust anyone, and especially Ara being afraid to trust them, had made [Rand] think of just how alone they really were.  It seemed they could not trust anyone but themselves, and he was still  not too sure how far they could trust Moiraine, or Lan.  Just themselves.
The Eye of the World, p. 165

    On the run, spirited away from home and families, with enemies in chase; the Emond's Fielders have had little time to breathe, let alone think.  Now safe, for the moment, in Baerlon, questions arise.  Compounded by a shared nightmare, doubts about the purpose and true aims of their allies take root.  As wary of being in a city for the first time as they are of their benefactors, 

    Trust is foundational.  It's about people: it makes a group of individuals a team.  Trust ensures that the team wholeheartedly embraces the goal, the end-state; operating as a joint unit to achieve it; separating them from blind followers.  It runs both up and down the chain of command; it is equally important to trust the team as it is for them to trust you. 

    Trust is extremely fragile.  With the speed of communications available  at our fingertips literally every minute of every day; it's easy to marginalize trust under the guise of "staying on top of things" or "just following up."  It is far easier to micro-manage to ensure your own success than it is to develop trust within your team and ensure their success.  In the not-so-distant past, trust was instrumental in successful organizations.  It demanded autonomy, critical thinking, and problem solving skill sets.  It developed confident leaders and teams.  It generated innovation and disruptive thinking.  Today, direction can be explicit, pointed and demand up-to-the-minute updates from the top down.  Creativity and outside-the-box thinking gets stifled in a haze of blind compliance and obedience, and people get treated like objects.

    Sometimes explicit, top-down direction is required.  But those instances are rare, generally reserved for times of crisis when immediate action is required.  Overused for the normal day-to-day, it kills innovation and fractures the foundation of trust.  Years ago when I was in the shipyard, I saw a brand new apprentice approach his supervisor.  The apprentice was excited to point out a new way of doing something.  I got excited when the supervisor listened, intently; the supervisor was significantly older and had spent the majority of his adult life working in the yard.  Institutionalization is a sinister threat to trust and innovation.  After the apprentice pitched his idea, the supervisor simply said, "That's not the way we do things."  Then he turned and left.  I'm sure my face looked like that apprentice's.  I hope that apprentice kept pitching ideas, but I doubt it.  Just like there's only one chance for a first impression, it's critical for leaders to remember to treat every new idea an employee develops as if it's their last.  Without trust, it definitely will be.


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