Being A Better Leader: The Difference Between Reliability And Trust

It'd be convenient to think that the world is a straightforward place, especially for those of us who are either in or aspire to be in positions of power in any capacity.

Whether we're talking about a manager, the president of a student-run organization on campus, or soon-to-be entrepreneurs gathering a team for their next startup, we might like to think that what goes into success comes down to two things: finding people who produce good work and, as the authority, making sure things stay that way.

Author Simon Sinek, however, begs to differ. In a TED talk on leadership, he provides a compelling argument that trust is not only the lifeblood of success, but that being a leader goes well beyond simply fulfilling the expectations of a leader.

"Make no mistake of it," Sinek says. "Trust is a feeling, a distinctly human experience. Simply doing everything that you promised you're going to does not mean that people will trust you, it just means that you're reliable. And we all have friends who are total screw ups and yet we still trust them. Trust comes from a sense of common values and belief."

Sinek is the writer behind the book "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Action." He is also a motivational speaker who has given many popular speeches on the subject of leadership, including this separate TED talk on the art of inspiring people to action.

Production and results are indications of the progression of any organization, no doubt, but Sinek says that focus should also be afforded to something less tangible, but perhaps much greater. He says it is trust that has the ability to inspire, push and motivate people to not simply succeed, but to act in ways that typically lead to revolutionary success.

"The reason trust is important is because when we're surrounded by people who believe what we believe, we're more confident to take risks," the New Jersey native said. "We're more confident to experiment, which requires failure by the way, we're more confident to go off and explore knowing that there is someone from within our community, someone who believes what we believe, someone we trust and who trusts us who will watch our back, help us when we fall over and watch our stuff and look after our children while we're gone."

This is no groundbreaking discovery, and neither is his advice that has been re-popularized by the news. Simon Sinek did indeed speak these words over two years ago, but in a world that is seeing tech startups spring up literally everyday, with equally interesting stories and ambitions, it might be important to revisit the foundations that the legends of the industry embodied.

Steve Jobs, who left Apple and had to come back, Howard Schultz, who left Starbucks and had to come back, and Michael Dell, who left Dell and had to come back, were all businessmen who were not only good at what they did but, as Sinek reminds us, but also fueled their companies to the top by promoting visions that they got everyone at their companies to believe in -- the significance of this ethic and their influence underlined by the fact that all of their companies needed them to return.

It's one thing to be a consistently fantastic entrepreneur, but it's a completely different thing to harness the power of trust. Trust is the idea that, lest we forget, is so strong that it influences people's decision making in such big ways, like parents placing their kids in the hands of familiar teens rather than anonymous seasoned professionals.

“Think about that for a second," Sinek says. "We'd rather trust our children, our most valuable possession on the planet, with somebody from within our community, with no experience over somebody with vast amounts of experience but we have no idea where they're from or what they believe. Then why do we do it differently at work?”

The suggestion that Sinek makes is simple. If anyone aims to replicate the revolutionary success or, at the very least, the effectiveness of the greatest leaders of our time, he or she must accept that it's important to consider the questions that those legends considered themselves.

"Why are we so preoccupied with someone's resume, and where they've worked and what they've done for our competition?" Sinek asks. "And yet we never think to consider what they believe, where they're from. How can we trust them, how can they trust us?"

None of this goes to say that experience doesn't matter but, after considering Sinek's words, a better understanding of what it takes to succeed might follow and that understanding might align with something like this: once we marry a search for the right people (skilled people, good people) fueled by the the goal of finding common ground, motivation and beliefs between us, we will understand what great leadership is because it's important to remember...

“Leadership tells us why we're here in the first place, it reminds us why we came here. Authority tells us what to do or what goal to achieve.”

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images