Leadership’s Ring of Fire

by Jennifer Miller on January 26, 2010

in Leadership

As part of an ongoing series on Positive Office Politics, Mike Henry from the Lead Change Group writes a thought-provoking essay on the ties that sincerity and authenticity have to building trust.  Need to get caught up on the series?  Start at the beginning with Jane Perdue’s blog Life, Love and Leadership. From there, check out my post on Networking Inside The Company WallsSusan Mazza will be following up next week on her blog Random Acts of Leadership with a post on leadership agendas.

Right now, I’m ruminating on Mike’s essay. As usual, Mike’s provided me with tasty food for thought on what he calls “the trust gap”. He says,

 When a person fakes authenticity or sincerity, they misrepresent their true motives and create a trust gap.

For people in leadership positions, this gap can have powerful and even tragic consequences.

I’m reminded of a story I heard years ago: a team of firefighters was fighting a blaze in California.  They found themselves surrounded by flames and their team leader told them to build a “fire ring” around them to protect themselves from the encroaching firestorm.  Some of his team members joined him within the fire circle, and some didn’t trust his judgment. In the end, those outside the circle perished while those who joined him inside the circle survived.

Of course, that’s an extreme example of the potential consequences of not trusting one’s leader. Even so, we can use the metaphor to contemplate the notion as it relates to our office jobs. What if we don’t trust our leadership?  What’s the “ring of fire” they’re asking us to step into? If we won’t willingly step into that ring, is it because they lack some form of sincerity?  Is their authenticity suspect?  I’m thinking the answer is: Yes. On some level the leaders haven’t earned their followers’ trust.  And that, as Mike points out, is driven in large part by their ability to be sincere.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Donna Highfill February 8, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Jennifer: As soon as I read that firefighter story my thought was “That leader should have been so trusted that his men didn’t question his instructions.” You’re right on the money . . .there was some reason beyond fear that caused those men to not listen to him.

Having spent time on a Marine Corps based in California (teaching), I know that those Marines so trusted their Drill Sargeants they would do whatever was asked of them. Not because they trusted blindly, but because those leaders did everything that was asked of their people. If they made them dig a ditch, they dug it with them. If they made them sleep in the rain in that ditch, they slept with them.

Great story, and great points as always. Thank you!

Donna

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