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Daniel Goleman: How Leaders Build Trust

Daniel Goleman: How Leaders Build Trust by Daniel Goleman

I spoke with my friend Bill George, Senior Fellow and Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, about what it means to lead ethically. His responses struck me as especially salient in our current business landscape, so I’ve paraphrased them below. (You can read the entire conversation in The Executive Edge: An Insider’s Guide to Outstanding Leadership.)

Trust can be fleeting – especially the trust we instill in leaders. A leader might spend 30 years building trust, and then watch it disappear in 30 minutes if he’s not careful. And when leaders flagrantly violate trust, it’s often never recovered.

Consider the epidemic of distrust caused by leaders putting their self-interests above all else. You’ll even hear some economists argue that this makes sense, because we’re all motivated by money and that’s just how the market functions.

Well, I disagree. Greed is not the market operating. Greed is actually disgraceful. But unfortunately, many leaders get away with it. Then all the people that depend on them—customers, shareholders, communities—are betrayed. Often a whole enterprise is destroyed.

To me, if you’re privileged enough to be in a position of leadership, it is paramount that you maintain the trust of the people for whom you have a responsibility. And if you violate that, then you have failed.