Leadership is everywhere. On the internet, at work, or libraries displays. But how to recognize trustworthy leadership?
If you are on a quest to find solutions to come further, the world is full of inspiring people, rags to rich stories, and experts.
You can learn something from every one of them, no matter on what part of the spectrum you are. From spiritual leaders to the hard-core business folk, via the self-optimization geeks, there is room for everybody and every style. And that's a good thing.
Different times need different leaders. Also, you'll have different phases in your development, where you will need to hear different messages.
In this article, I'd like to talk about one aspect that can help you find the right role model for you - beyond how well they're doing and how brilliant they are: Their trustworthiness and capacity to self-reflect.
In order to recognize a trustworthy thought leader - and if you want to - you need to pay attention to a few things, that seem unimportant but can inspire you to become your best.
They don't think they have the monopoly on truth and/or originality.
Self-confidence is one of the keys to success. No doubt about it. Lots of entrepreneurs and creators, unfortunately, never make it, because they lack it.
They think their work isn't good enough to expose to the world, they think nobody needs to hear what they have to say, and they think they can't create something original.
But the truth is...
Nobody can. Nothing in this world is 100 % original. Everything has been readopted and transformed. Giants have been standing on the shoulders of other giants. And if you have a good memory, you also know that many people are masters at claiming thoughts or ideas as their own, while having forgotten, that someone whispered it to them - I'm talking about real persons, not muses or ghosts.
We all have a preconception about what's right and what's wrong, how things work, and how the world works.
A self-reflected thought leader knows that her view of the world and her opinions aren't universal.
They don't "play the authenticity card", they are authentic.
There has been an epidemic of authenticity in the past few years on Social Media and I think it's a good thing.
We have had too many centuries were being your "true self" (if there is such a thing) has been repressed. People have been persecuted and killed (and unfortunately still are in some corner of this wonderful Earth) for their opinions, their religions, their ethnicity, their lifestyle, their genders, and their sexual orientation for centuries.
So now that the old world is slowly dying, we see more and more a phenomenon where people are encouraged to show their vulnerability (thanks to courageous people like Brené Braun) and their authenticity to the outside world.
Which is per se a good thing. But, as we progress in this direction, authenticity seems to have been more and more manipulated as an "in-your-face"-marketing tool by people who probably never had to really struggle in their lives (okay, I'm mind-reading ;-)) and couldn't care less about touching people's lives.
But real authenticity isn't about telling the story about how sad you felt as your cat died when you were 5 (except if it is the truth), but about showing people what you think isn't socially acceptable about yourself.
Authenticity is about courage.
Having the courage to tell the truth when you know you can't control the outcome.
Does it mean that you have to be an open book and tell the whole world about your secrets?
It means standing up for yourself, not saying "yes" when you mean "no", defending a cause, an opinion, or a person, even if people despise you for it, and especially when you belong to a minority.
Which is one of the most difficult things to do on Earth.
They don't finger-point at other people.
It's a pity that we have to talk about that, but sincerely, I'm going to finger-point as well today.
I'm sick of people who post content that finger-point at what others do, hoping it will make them look trustworthy. Or maybe not hoping at all, because they don't think about it for a minute!
"Look what this charlatan is doing!"
"If you do that, then...!"
"Look, how unprofessional!"
"Screw copy cats!"
BLA. BLA. BLA.
And my favorite at the moment: People complaining about coaches with supposedly no competences who scam poor victims into buying thousands-of-dollars-coaching-packages.
Well, you don't have to buy their stuff, do you?
Pointing at what your colleagues and competitors do wrong doesn't make you trustworthy, it makes you unlikeable.
They accept other life models and opinions and acknowledge that there isn't "one-fits-all" for everybody
One of the ways to recognize a trustworthy thought leader is to see how open-minded they are to other perspectives.
There isn't only one way that leads to Rome and they know it. On top of it, they acknowledge that not everybody wants the same.
Some people value their family more than anything.
Some people value money and power more than anything.
Some people value freedom more than anything.
Some people value the expression of their creativity more than anything.
Some people value connection and helping others more than anything.
Note: It doesn't have to be contradictory. I do think you can succeed in more than one thing in life, but for the sake of this argumentation, I chose striking examples.
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The thing is, if someone doesn't have any ambition, prefer doing as little as possible, and watching Netflix 40 hours per week, it's nobody's business.
Same with people who feel happy to work 100 hours or more per week, to achieve a big goal - or just because they like to work.
You can think of laziness (in the first case) or workaholism (in the second case), but in the end, it's none of your business.
As long as people aren't impacting others negatively (especially if it's intentional), what they do with their life, is nobody's business.
Trustworthy thought leaders know that and they'll never try to bend others to their will because they are too busy improving themselves.
They have a growth mindset
Trustworthy thought leaders know that you "weren't born with it or not and that's the end of the story". They know that practice and consistency leads to mastery.
Yes, you might have been born with some things that you can do better than anybody else, but that's not what will make you happy and successful.
A talent, underutilized, will perish and even become a drag for your growth if you are unable to face failure and the self-doubts that inevitably occur while developing your competencies. (To learn more about growth mindset, check out Carol Dweck's book about her years of research on the subject.)
I'm a little more extreme in that case and think that desire is even more powerful than talent.
Some great thought leaders of the past even think that your desires are created upon your raw talents.
They are congruent, and if not, they talk openly about it.
Now, that's a tough one. In an ideal world - at least mine 😉 - everybody would be congruent and logical like Mr. Spock.
The reality is, it's not the case at all.
The world is probably full of broke money mindset coaches, business coaches who have never built a business before they built their coaching business, people who have less followers than you do but want to give you tips on social media marketing, employees who give you business-related tips, overweighted people who give you tips about healthy living, spiritual "self-aware-and-self-proclaimed" leaders who are public dangers, crazy therapists, people who have no children giving parental advice, and the list goes on!
Unfortunately, we aren't Mr. Spock (even I'm still secretly hoping I'll become him) and you have to start somewhere.
"We teach best what we most need to learn."
- Richard Bach
However, even if we aren't perfect, a minimum of self-awareness can be helpful for yourself and others, and besides is more trustworthy than pretending you're the real deal if you can't even see what's just in front of you.
To give you an example, I have postponed the launching of an online training which one of the topics is overcoming procrastination. Pretty ironical isn't it? But I'm aware of it and have a good reason for it (okay, we always do. But I really do ;-)). It doesn't even make me a trustworthy thought leader to admit it but, at least, I know I'm not delusional.
They don't care about theory and what everybody thinks, they care about results.
That's a big one.
In a lot of countries, people are in love with certificates and officially recognized documents.
I get it.
You want to avoid being scammed or bleeding to death on an operating table because your surgeon doesn't know what he's doing but a certificate or diploma doesn't say anything about your competencies either.
I have a Master's Degree in History. Can you imagine how competent I am in this discipline and how much I remember? I'll leave it to your imagination. And yes, in case you wanted to explore a possible explanation for why I wouldn't consider myself a Historian, I was a good student. Nevertheless, I would trust the knowledge of every Hobby Historian who spends his weekends in the archives more than mine regarding that discipline.
Same with brands... Is a package of rice that costs 3$ better than the one which costs 1$?
But it might also suggest to you that it is better because you know the brand. In other words, it has social proof (aka a million-dollar budget for marketing), that the no-name package hasn't, even if they might have been produced in the same part of the world, by the same guy.
Everything you encounter out there, people or brands, has more credibility through social proof but it never says something about the truth.
Reputation (bad or good) is made.
Official documents can be bought and faked and even honestly earned, they say nothing about your capacity to produce results.
Credentials can be faked and are subjective.
Influence can be bought (doesn't mean it's not sincere in the end. Don't fool yourself on this)
So, even if I'm playing the devil's advocate with this, I think you get the point.
The only thing you can do is try things out and see if results happen.
They will never try to influence you badly - or even influence you at all.
And finally, a trustworthy thought leader will never try to influence you - especially badly.
It might happen, because nobody is perfect, effective communication is really hard, and especially if you tend to take everything the wrong way, but generally speaking, trustworthy thought leaders don't have self-serving intentions in mind.
They don't want you to idolize them, they don't need you to like them, they don't try to impress you, to manipulate you, to dominate you, to discourage you, or any other kind of self-serving intentions.
I wish I was completely free of this myself but I'm pleased when people like what I do.
First, because I don't really like to write into a void - although writing is intrinsic motivation for me and I'd probably still write in order to avoid talking to myself -, secondly, because I still need some kind of external reflection of what I do - aka appreciation.
Being a good and trustworthy leader isn't easy...
Because you have to raise your standards and it demands efforts and self-awareness.
However, remember that you are also a leader. If you're a parent, a boss, you're engaged in your community, or whatever, you are a leader.
Everything you do and say can potentially influence someone else.
You can empower people or make them feel bad about themselves. Of course, I don't deny the fact that people are also responsible for themselves and choose to be influenced or not.
However, there's nothing wrong with being self-reflected and have good intentions towards others.
That includes being a good leader to yourself by the way. And that's a lot of self-awareness and mindset work.
If you need to support yourself with being a good leader to yourself, and support yourself in the best way possible to follow through on any business or creative project you might have, I have a great upcoming online training for you. Sign up and get yourself on the waiting list. I'll support you weekly with life coaching tips sent directly into your inbox until it's out (and of course afterward ;-))