Trust as the Essential Ingredient in Influence: A Leadership Perspective

Kellogg professor Harry Kraemer outlines the four underlying principles of values-based leadership.


Contributor / Harry Kraemer

Clinical Professor of Strategy
Kellogg School of Management / Leadership

When was the last time you heard an inspiring leader say, “I haven’t made a move yet, because I’ve been waiting on other people.” It would be a strange thing to hear, because stagnancy is inherently contradictory to good leadership. Kraemer outlines the four underlying principles of values-based leadership–self-reflection, a balanced perspective, true self-confidence, and humility–that transform those who wait around into those who take initiative.


When one talks about leadership, sometimes people will say, “Well, I’d really love to be a leader, but I don’t have anybody reporting to me.”

One of the key things about leadership is that leadership really has nothing to do with organizational charts and titles; leadership has everything to do with the ability to influence people.

And the only way you can influence people is you have to be able to relate to people.

And if you’re going to relate to people, the only way that’s going to happen is through trust.

The more trust that you can develop, the more you’ll be able to relate to people, influence people, and lead people.

And as I always remind folks, the people that are the leaders literally exhibit leadership long before, long before they have anybody reporting to them.

And I often tell the story that sometimes in companies, there’s this view of, “Boy, I’d really like to get started, but I can’t yet. We have to wait for some group of people.” You say, “Well, who do we have to wait for?”

Well, there’s this infamous group of people that seems to exist in most companies that get referred to as “those guys.” There’s this magical group of men and women called “those guys we have to wait for.”

And as I try to remind people who want to be leaders, when do you become a leader? You become a leader as soon as you realize, “I am one of those guys. I’m one of the men or women who’s going to make a difference.

“Why? Because I’m going to establish relationships based on trust and have an enormous impact on the organization regardless of my level, regardless of my title.”

Bumper: 4 Ways to Establish Trust as a Values-Based Leader

From my perspective, if you’re the CEO of an organization—whether it’s 10 people or 50,000 people—you are one of the people (and I stress one of the people) responsible for building trust with customers, partners, suppliers.

As the former CEO of Baxter Healthcare, I would always get asked the question, “Boy, how do you deal with all these stakeholders? You have your team members, you have customers, you have suppliers, you have society, you have shareholders. Boy, there’s got to be a whole lot of conflicts between these.”

My perspective is, if you’re a value-based leader and you’re focused on building trust, you actually realize these are not in conflict. In the bigger picture, it’s all in exactly the same direction.

To the extent somebody wants to be a value-based leader and really establish trust, my view is there’s four things that you need to focus on as a leader.

Number one, you need to become self-reflective. You need to start to think about, “What are my values? What do I stand for? What’s my purpose? What really matters?”

Number two, I have to focus on developing a balanced perspective. And when I say “a balanced perspective,” many people have very, very strong opinions; the problem is they have virtually no understanding of other perspectives.

But the value-based leaders takes the time to understand all sides of the story. They establish trust because they demonstrate they really care about what each person has to say.

Number three, a value-based leader focuses on what I refer to as “true self-confidence.” They know what they know; they admit what they don’t know; they’re a learning person.

And the fourth and final key part of being a value-based leader is genuine humility. In genuine humility, you realize every single person matters.

And if you want to establish trust in an organization, you don’t take the view, “Well, I’m a director level now. Well, these people are below me.” No, nobody’s below you.

You as a leader are the person who’s below because you realize every single person matters. That isn’t just a nice thing to say; you actually believe it.

And to the extent you can make progress on becoming a little more self-reflective, establish more balance, have true self-confidence and genuine humility, your ability to build relationships and trust in the organization will truly put you on the path to becoming a value-based leader.

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Why We Need Trust In Negotiations

Why We Need Trust in Negotiations

Contributor / Jeanne Brett
Jeanne Brett Negotiations Swift Trust,Communication,Vulnerability BUMPER: Signaling Trustworthiness

I’d like to distinguish between swift trust and slow trust. Swift trust means I don’t know you—I may not even know you by reputation—but I assume you’re a professional. I assume that you are benevolent; I assume that you’re trustworthy.

And I signal that information to you. And then you come back to me, usually, by reinforcing me and indicating that, yeah, I made the right call about you. It’s hard to not fulfill someone’s trusting expectations of you.

In slow trust, there’s no assumption that the other party is trustworthy. In slow trust, it’s slow; it takes time to develop trust. What that means is, people have to have experience with each other, gain familiarity with each other, have that experience where I make myself a little vulnerable and you don’t take advantage of me.

Slow trust builds slowly over time. Swift trust happens quickly. One is just more efficient than the other in negotiations. So, it’s understandable that many people are reluctant to take the swift-trust risk.

BUMPER: Positive Outcomes with More Trust & Vulnerability

Two sisters are both in the kitchen; they’re both cooking; and they have need for an orange. And they only have one orange.

So, the sisters get into a fight: “I want the orange.” “No, I want the orange; you can’t have the orange.” And there’s no solution because half an orange is not going to satisfy either sister.

They get nowhere until they take that single issue of who gets the orange and say, “Why do you want the orange?” And then they learn that one sister wants the orange for the rind, and the other sister wants the orange for the juice.

Now, if they had just taken half an orange, neither one of their recipes would have come out. But by finding out why they wanted the orange—those are those interests in negotiations—they were able to both win, if you will.

What happens is, in negotiations—even if it looks like it’s a single issue, or many negotiations are multi-issue—what you have to understand is where the other party is coming from, what’s motivating the other party, what’s most important to the other party.

You’re not going to get everything you want in negotiation; you’re too interdependent for that. But if you find out what’s more important to the other party that’s somewhat less important to you, then you can begin to make a trade-off.

So, why do negotiators need to trust?—because as soon as I start revealing what’s important to me, you have the opportunity to take advantage of me.

So, I have to trust you that you won’t take advantage of me, which means we coach negotiators to share a little information about interests and priorities, ask for some information—comparable information—in return.

And then you can get this reciprocity going—sharing information—understand where the other party is coming from, make those trade-offs, and build high-quality agreements, like the two sisters and the orange.

Other pages in Videos:

Pages in The Trust Project at Northwestern University