Best Story Ever on Leading with Trust


I’ve got three things for you  today – an unbelievably crazy story, a lesson in leadership from Kouzes and Posner, and a question or two for you.  Here’s the story:

We go to church and Fr. Mark says that he has been to Kenya and he wants us to help.  There’s an orphanage in a village there, because the HIV/AIDS toll has been so great that there are many, many orphans who need to be cared for.  There are already two orphanages. They want to build a third one that will house 50 children and it will cost $65,000.  And Fr Mark says he needs money.  So you think he’s going to  collect, right?  That’s not what he did.  Instead, he says he’s gonna distribute money to us.  Get this: He says he’s gonna pass out envelopes and that you’re gonna get an envelope with anywhere from $15 to $150 dollars in it. And his request is that over the next six weeks of this period of Lent (the forty days leading up to Easter) that you would actually take that money and somehow use it and bring back more money.*  Maybe, he says, you buy brownie mix and sell brownies or buy lemonade mix and sell lemonade, or otherwise get creative.

Now, if you’re like me, do you believe this?  Do you believe this guy’s really gonna hand out money?  Well sure enough the baskets come around and I pull out an envelope. I open it up thinking there’s got to be something, a check, something that is money but not cash.  But no, look what’s in there:  a ten, two twenties, and a fifty dollar bill — a hundred dollars.  I’ve got a hundred dollars.  Isn’t this incredible?

Now, think of this in terms of what Kouzes and Posner say in their great book The Leadership Challenge:

“If we could offer you only one bit of advice on how to start the process of creating a climate of trust it would be this: be the first to trust.  Building trust is a process that begins when one party is willing to risk being the first to open up, being  the first to show vulnerability, and being the first to let go of control…Leaders go first, as the word leader implies.”
Are you kidding me?!!.  Talk about letting go of control.  This parish church in the middle of Oakland was giving away $12,000 in the hope and trust that we would do more.

So, my question for you is how do you lead with that kind of trust with your people?  What do you say to your staff?  How do you give them time, or a bonus ahead of time, or anything else that will help them to perform?  With your children how do you say: here’s some time, or here’s some money, or here’s the benefit of the doubt, because I trust you, and I trust you’ll do something great?

Trust is key when you

Lead with your best self,


* Those who read the New Testament will probably make the same connection that Fr. Mark offered; this is the parable of the talents in reality.  And I guess since I was given a big chunk, I better not bury it in a field!