Lead With Trust to Empower Innovation

Great companies have great leaders who lead with trust.

The word innovation gets tossed around frequently in the tech world. While it has become a bit of a buzzword, the way that we value actual innovation and creative solutions are emblematic of the kind of professional culture that we idealize. Certain companies have a reputation for promoting a ‘creative’ culture, and while that is certainly a strong quality to develop within an organization, the real reason that these atmospheres can even be cultivated is trust.

Trust is something that is hard won and easily lost. Organizations encounter scenarios in which trust is an underlying theme nearly every day. When we think about knowledge sharing, and how forward-thinking companies have begun to focus on the myriad benefits of establishing this kind of culture, we’re really talking about how leadership has created a culture in which employees are not afraid to share knowledge or test ideas.

Leaders develop trust within an organization by providing an atmosphere in which employees do not fear losing their job or being punished for collaborating or thinking outside the box. Simon Sinek, a speaker, and consultant who writes on leadership and management and is a member of the RAND Corporation gave a poignant TED Talk last year on the subject of developing trust within in an organization. Below are some of the key takeaways worth considering, along with links to video clips. Although the entire talk, also below, is worth a watch.

  • Good leaders do not ask others to do anything they would not do themselves.

Sinek, talking about the time he has spent with those in military services, notes that one of the key elements of a good leader is developing a relationship with others in which they know you are just as invested in their success as they are.

  • Building trust is about looking at a greater picture than just our own success.

Selfishness is a quality that gets portrayed in the business world as a necessary byproduct of success. The greatest business builders are cutthroat and are willing to do nearly anything to pursue an idea. Again, highlighting the paradox between the ideals we value in our service members and the ideals we value in our business tycoons, Sinek succinctly states the value of having a perspective broader than a single mind.

  • Establishing a culture of trust allows employees to devote energy and brainpower to collective success, rather than self-preservation.

Much like our blog post—detailing how a team member who refuses to participate in knowledge sharing can sink a project—demonstrates, if employees feel as though they can be let go or punished at the whim of leadership, they will spend more time, energy and brainpower working on simply keeping their job intact, rather than putting those resources toward something more productive. Undoubtedly, this negatively affects knowledge sharing, but on an even greater scale, it can poison a company’s internal culture by dividing, rather than uniting.

Ultimately, trust is a quality that can be easily overlooked. A culture of trust can empower an organization to achieve something greater than the sum of the parts, but without it, culture, motivation and talent retention can plummet. Take a look around the business pages sometime. You can tell which companies are driven by true leaders and which are driven by a “boss.”