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Dare to lead: brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts
Brené Brown
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 16 minuuttia.


Trust is the base for building relationships, and for those to continue to persist, it also must remain the key element. The same applies to society. There is so much trust that exists within, and while it is working, everyone benefits and forgets to notice how much trust they have until it is an issue (Ariely, 2019). A trust relationship is dynamic, and most importantly, a trust relationship is indispensable (Böckler-Raettig, 2017). Having trust means being willing to take risks, and it is also what supports empowerment and courage.

Working with people involves placing a great deal of trust in others hoping of receiving this trust back. It is, therefore, important to consider how to enhance it within a partnership and reduce the likelihood of betrayal. The purpose of this essay is to define the base of trust and understand how to build mutually beneficial, trust-based relationships in a cooperative setting, as well as how to increase it within the cooperation.



As S. Sinek explains in one of his TEDx shows in Maastricht, trust is built between people who share similar beliefs owing to the fact that the human race is naturally dependent on people being able to trust one another in order to survive. Therefore, if an individual would surround themselves with somebody who shares similar viewpoints, the trust would grow, and they would feel more empowered to take risks and experiment. Accordingly, this leads to an understanding that shared values ​​​​and opinions can lead to trust. (Sinek, 2011.)

Prof. Dr. Anne Böckler-Raettig in her TEDx speech in Frankfurt in 2017 backs up some facts about trust from psychology, social neuroscience and behavioral economics that humans often decide whether to trust somebody within a few hundred milliseconds. Moreover, she highlights three criteria that humans evaluate during this process – face, the authority of competence and reputation, and this works especially when meeting someone for the first time. The first thing people do is look at the face and identify the features. According to her, Psychology findings suggest that people tend to agree about who seems trustworthy and who doesn’t, and the giveaway in this sense would be the areas around People’s eyes and mouths that give an impression of trustworthiness. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017.)

After looking for signals in the face, people search for some indications of the authority of competence and reputation. As a matter of fact, prior knowledge about someone else can have such a profound influence on a person’s expectations that they would disregard how this person behaves in reality. In addition, even if someone has a trustworthy nature and all of their behaviors would seem to be consistent with that, it is still likely that an individual would expect them to be untrustworthy, and would want to protect themselves against it. However, these signals of people’s evaluation through these three stages, which people usually do unconsciously, are not so trustworthy themselves. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017.)

It is important to note, however, that trust is a bit more complex, and it cannot be designed to happen by force on the spot. People must work for it. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017.) In their explanations of trust as a subject, both S. Sinek and A. Böckler-Raettig share a similar perspective, stating that it is a continuous and proactive process by nature that humans can experience through their feelings (Sinek, 2011; Böckler-Raettig, 2017). This would also explain why a person who has been hurt by a Trusted person will often recall the feeling and relate to that experience, explaining why they want to protect themselves from such an incident occurring again by saying they “feel” like they cannot trust people again in the future (either those who were involved or “people” in general).

S. Sinek also challenges people who struggle with trusting other people to think about how they view trust and the people around them because when one says that there are no trustworthy people around them, there is only one factor that unites this statement, and that is the individual themselves. Thus, that would mean that if one is unable to trust others, the question is whether the person himself has proven to be trustworthy. (Sinek, 2022a). Similarly, in her book “Dare to Lead”, PhD Brené Brown, argues that the foundation of trusting other people is related to how much individuals are confident in their own capabilities, or in other words, to gain trust from others, one should start by trusting themselves (Brown 2018, 221).

In addition to this notion, another important note is that fulfilling all Promises does not make one appear trustworthy – it only means that they are reliable (Sinek, 2011). Although when looking into both words in the Oxford dictionary, reliable and trustworthy almost share the same meaning (someone who deserves trust), the only slight difference that supports the previous argument is that “a reliable person” is associated with someone who can be trusted to do something well whilst “a trustworthy person” is someone to whom one can rely on being good, honest and sincere (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, n.d.). However, small things such as paying attention, listening, and demonstrating genuine care and connection to earn someone’s trust, can alter this, and it should not have to require heroic deeds or detectable actions to achieve trustworthiness (Brown 2018, 32).



On TEDxEast in 2016, Dan Ariely, Writer and Professor of Psychology and behavioral Economics from Duke University, Revealed that trust can also be dependent. Through an example of the prisoners’ game, he explains that trust can also be formed for a limited period of time, and then disappear as the partnership ends. As an example, most people will choose not to risk trusting a stranger if the game that is based on trust is played only once. In contrast, if participants are informed at the beginning of the game that they will work together repeatedly, they are more likely to cooperate and form a bond of trust. Nevertheless, it was observed that when approaching the end of their playing period, players would cease to cooperate and return to the first stage. (Ariely, 2016.)

As Professor Dan Ariely explains, at the beginning people have time to build their reputation, but as they get closer to the end, they return to the stage of a “one-period game” where they lack trust again (Ariely, 2016). Therefore, it can be observed that trust is formed when people are in need to cooperate and depend on other people, but as the relationship is coming to an end, the feeling of mutual trust can also disappear.

Psychologists and behavioral economists have studied trust for many decades and measured it as an investment of time, effort, and money (Böckler-Raettig, 2017). In her speech, Anne Böckler-Raettig highlights what sets the difference between successful organizations that cultivate trust-based relationships and those that fail to do so, and that is the practice of forgiveness. Meaning that to be able to build trust-based relationships inside the team, the person who has been betrayed needs to overcome their inner issues with the other person and trust them at least once, whilst the person who has betrayed their trust needs to actively work is repairing the relationship by proving themselves worthy of trust again. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017.)

Although to be able to forgive, one needs to be able to empathize with the other. That means being able to shift the perspective towards understanding the other person, and to consider what the other person fears, believes, knows, wants and feels, and that is not easy because one needs to overcome their own ego. Genuine forgiveness comes with understanding what might have led to a failure of a trust-based relationship. Additionally, this, as A. Böckler-Raettig explains, has also been proven by a study, which reveals that being able to understand another’s perspective is crucial for trust-based relationships. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017.)

Furthermore, based on A. Böckler-Raettig’s findings, another psychological research suggests that people who tend to trust others less and expect the worst from them are also less capable of sensing when other people are hurt or irritated. Therefore, it is harder for these people to recognize signs of distrust which results in them being less willing to repair trust-based relationships and convince others into trusting them again. That leads to an observation that in order to recognize distrust and preserve trust-built relationships, one needs to trust and be trustworthy. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017.)


3.1 Creating trust-based relationships within a team

Trust enhances People’s self-confidence. A study has shown that when people feel trusted, their brain rewards them by sending a signal that they are trustworthy. (Böckler-Raettig, 2017). People who feel trusted are more likely to take more risks and stretch their comfort zones because trust builds a support system. Yet trusting a person does not imply that people will believe that the individual will never fail. Conversely, even though they could be sometimes wrong or err, at least people trust that their values ​​and intentions would stay aligned (Willink, 2017). Therefore, trust can also empower.

Having trust enabled in a team allows empowerment, even if it comes with a risk. However, this is a challenge leaders must be willing to take. In reality, it is usually the other way around – leaders must first prove themselves worthy of trust to be able to lead. For example, as S. Sinek explains in his observations from the forms in the military it can make a difference between life and death. Meaning, when there is no control over the situation or outcome, the Commander needs to have the full trust of their team so that they would follow instructions without any questions. Similarly, in business when the whole team is under heavy pressure, they need to be able to at least trust their leader, to do their task successfully without further questioning.Yet this is only one example to understand how crucial trust in a team is, and why leaders need to be trustworthy to get the same attitude from their team. (Sinek, 2022b.)

Furthermore, Jocko Willink, the former United States Navy officer, encourages people to take more ownership of their own actions, influenced by his own experience, while working on the most violent Battlefield in 2006, Ramadi, Iraq when a Firefight broke out between the men from the same side. In response to the commanding officer’s request for explanations to determine who had caused the tragic accident, J. Willink understood that despite knowing all of the errors by several members of the team, that only he alone, the leader, was responsible for the incident and that he had to take ownership of this situation, even if it meant losing a position and damaging his reputation.This decision meant overcoming his ego, but, as he discovered, when he took ownership of his actions instead of losing the trust of the people he worked with, he gained even more of it. In fact, he had encouraged people around him to take responsibility for their actions. Moreover, people started to trust him even more, not because they believed he would not make any Mistakes anymore, but because they knew that even after facing demanding situations, he would remain worthy of their trust and aligned with their values ​​and beliefs. (Willink, 2017.)

To create a trust-based environment in a team, leaders ought to focus on giving even more trust to their team members, for example, by empowering them (Sinek, 2021). B. Brown encourages team leaders to focus on how they can improve their working style to create a better working environment for their team. She says, “we Desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear” (Brown 2018, 4).A leader should focus more on establishing an environment that allows its team members to be themselves and achieve the best results than on working out ways in which they can make use of their natural abilities only to contribute to the growth of their organization (Sinek, 2021 ). Furthermore, good leaders who are Empathic and take the time to build trust and care about their people are also able to convert short-term command and control into the moment of Chaos and crises, and it is highly effective, and as a result, the team comes together in remarkable ways. Nevertheless, trust must be built first. (Sinek, 2021.)



When there is trust, everyone benefits. Yet, when compared with a society which lacks trust and one that has an immense trust, the second society would always be more fragile. If the trust is betrayed in the good equilibria, it will have an effect on its order, whereas, in the bad one, it will not change anything. In other words, people who are used to trusting people from their community, once an incident occurs can start to doubt the trust they have now, whilst when nobody is trusting no one, then nothing changes – there is nothing to betray. Furthermore, if one wants to make a change in the bad equilibria by giving more trust, as D. Ariely explains by an example of putting money in a jar, it will not influence the trust level to go higher, it will soon go back to zero. (Ariely, 2019.)


4.1 Not knowing “why” before trusting

Following Sinek’s golden circle of “why-how-what”, the “why” aligns the team because it can stand for beliefs, values, and why the organization exists – the purpose (Sinek, 2009). In addition, during his talk on TEDx Maastricht S. Sinek also Mentions that “why” must come even before building trust. This argument also proves the fact that trust can be dependent when both parties need to rely on each other to reach their goal. However, he also shared another insight that is crucial to be able to understand how organizations work. He states, “the single biggest challenge that any culture or organization will ever face is its own success” (Sinek, 2021).

Sinek’s thought encourages to think about the Evolution of organizations and the aftereffects of time, changing staff and success. Meaning that once a business or organization is founded the Founders know why they do it and what they do to support it. In fact, then both of those questions are very closely linked, allowing them to form trust and put their visions into works together. Nevertheless, as more people join their team, the Founders need to explain their vision and hope that others will understand it, and can be trusted to participate in decision-making. As a result, it is much easier to understand and deliver “what” the organization does, which means that what they do continues to grow in its power while the “why” remains constant.(Sinek, 2021.) In fact, it is also very much possible that the “why” of the organization is not relevant anymore and needs to be improved or changed to prevent using new solutions to solve old problems.

Therefore, another factor that can affect the power of trust within the organization is its rapid growth with the decentralization of its operations and the changes following the replacement of the leader or the original staff. Consequently, when challenged by questions of its identity, the company might fear the change and continue to stick to the old methods, blaming the environment for the effect of change on its performance. (Browaeys & Price 2011, 175.) This can result in many behaviors that can affect not only the company’s performance and environment but also its trust, one of which is implementing shame and blame methods instead of efficient learning of mistakes, accountability, and improvement (Brown 2018, 9).


4.2 Common Mistakes

B. Brown has researched the topic of what behaviors and cultural issues can interfere with organizational success all around the world. This section will underline the key highlights of these common mistakes B. Brown mentioned in her work “Dare to Lead”.

As revealed by the research, individuals tend to avoid difficult conversations through dialogue about diversity and inclusion out of fear of saying something wrong or being wrong, preferring their own comfort over communicating about something that could be rather uncomfortable, jumping to a conclusion that it is something that is not needed or something negative. This is the epitome of privilege, as B. Brown explains, which sabotages trust and prevents people from making long-term, meaningful and lasting changes. (Brown 2018, 9.) Therefore, this can also lead to another common problem in organizations, which is the dilution of trust due to a lack of empathy and communication (Brown 2018, 8).

In addition, this includes forgetting to give honest and constructive feedback, which is crucial to allow people to learn, grow, and eliminate misunderstandings that may lead to a conflict. Lack of clarity not only undermines trust but also the team’s engagement, leading to passive-aggressive behavior, gossiping and assumptions, and possible dislocation from the organization and its vision. (Brown 2018, 7.) Consequently, team leaders tend to over-analyse how to handle problematic behaviors instead of taking a reasonable amount of time to understand and acknowledge fears and feelings that arise within a team as a result of change and disorganization (Brown 2018, 8).

Moreover, a similar approach can also be observed when dealing with the identification and resolution of problems within the company’s operations. Identifying and Solving problems efficiently requires Patience and not rushing into the problem-solving process before individuals have ensured that the problem has been properly recognized and understood by asking the right questions that would support an understanding of what might have led to the problem appearing in the first place. If a solution is found for the wrong cause, the same problem will continue to arise on the surface. This, as B. Brown adds, is costly and demoralizing. (Brown 2018, 9.)

Meanwhile, many organizations continue setting unattainable goals and vague values ​​​​that have little to do with the reality of the business environment, which leads to questioning its core, work quality, and the purpose of the team. Thus when facing difficulties as a company, some team leaders focus more on convincing their team members of their value and contribution and making Promises to find solutions to solve their problems but forget that they also need to fulfill their promises. (Brown 2018, 8.) False promises, misleading, pretending to have knowledge and answers, Manipulation and lies are one of the key components to Destroy trust quickly (University of Colorado, 2015).



Trust can be increased through cooperation, showing care and alignment through the smallest moments of action, meaning that the individual needs to show that they are willing to give trust and prove it through their actions. Moreover, they need to be able to cooperate with others even if it does not always guarantee their own benefit. When people show that they give unselfishly without giving any mixed signals for their intentions, even if they had the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, and both parties are aware of it, this creates a bond of trust. The more people give trust, the more likely they are to receive it back. In other words, one of the ways to increase trust is by giving more of it towards each other.Therefore, if individuals can establish a system based on trust that creates even more trust, the possibility of trust returning will continue to increase. (Ariely, 2019.)

Furthermore, empowerment and transparency can also increase the level of trust within the team. According to S. Sinek, team leaders should try to create career paths inside their organization that would allow people to work towards their own career direction. Consequently, this will enable the company to work with individuals who will recognize opportunities and when and how to use them, learn from their Mistakes and Collaborate to fix them. This is because even though there might be an illusion that people with higher positions suffer from more stress or illnesses, the Whitehall II study of 1967 proved that jobs with lower status are even more stressful. (Health inequalities among British civil servants: the Whitehall II study, 1967, as cited in Sinek, 2021.)

One of the common problems highlighted was uncertainty and lack of control within the position held. Therefore, by empowering their team, leaders can improve transparency within their workplace and increase trust. As Jocko Willink explains, individuals need to control their egos and take ownership of their mistakes, solutions, failures, and success. People will give more trust to those individuals who prove to be trustworthy, and they will behave similarly, and this, he adds, is true as well on the Battlefield as in business. (Willink, 2017.)

Trust and Vulnerability greatly influence each other, so betraying one means losing both (Brown 2018, 34). Choosing to connect with the other person when they would need it more, over what the individual would have preferred doing at that moment out of consideration of the other person, allows their mutual trust to grow. Therefore, trust can also be increased if a person is ready Occasionally to put themselves in discomfort, knowing that the other person they care about will benefit from it (Gottman, 2011, as cited in Brown 2018; Ariely, 2019).

Nevertheless, this will not eliminate betrayal. While considering methods to increase trust, another question will emerge: “How to reduce betrayal?” Although this is another, far more complex, topic that may require further research, some insight into this topic can be gained from Dan Ariely’s TEDxEast speech in 2016. According to him, the answer lies in reputation, long-term relationships, and Revenge or punishment. It follows the notion that if there were consequences for disloyalty, then the person would think about the act of Revenge that would result from their actions and would refrain from taking action of betrayal. Accordingly, in the case of a cooperative, if one person were to choose to betray another,knowing that this would negatively affect their relationships throughout the organization as well as lose even more trust they have built, they would endeavor to remain trustworthy. (Ariely, 2016).



Most people to be able to give trust need their team to listen to them, show curiosity, be honest, and be confident, and to achieve this, it is important to think about Psychological safety (Brown 2018, 37). That is, to enhance the quality of work collaboratively, people must feel safe enough to share their opinions and admit when they make mistakes, ask for help, and confess how they feel about their work (Sinek, 2020). Moreover, Project Aristotle, a two-year research on highly productive teams performed by Google, discovered that Psychological safety was the most influential of all five factors (psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning and impact) that distinguished successful teams from the other teams’ success (Duhigg, 2016 as cited in Brown 2018, 36).Meaning that if in the company people fear voicing their concerns and making mistakes, they would try to hide their errors and work only for their salary, and, therefore, not give any added value to their work and workplace. As a result, the system may be the reason that keeps the organization away from its success. However, it is the leader, who is responsible for creating the environment within the team. (Sinek, 2020.)

According to Sinek, leaders are not accountable for results but for the people who produce them (Sinek, 2020). Moreover, to encourage employees to be present and bring their whole selves to work, leaders should build a work culture in which everyone feels respected, safe, and seen. As a result, this would create a safe space for the team that stimulates curiosity and courage and where everyone can forget their individual concerns during their working hours and have some power over who they are at work. In addition, this could not only improve their work capacity but also have some impact on their personal lives. (Brown 2018, 12.)

Psychological safety allows one to hold difficult conversations and, at the same time, to be comfortable being vulnerable. However, it does not imply the absence of tension or pressure, nor does it indicate that people need to become friends (Edmondson 2012 as cited in Brown 2018, 37). It is important to choose rumbling (a term created by B. Brown for handling demanding conversations with vulnerability) over gossiping about work-related issues in the absence of the other person. Since it is not only misleading and unproductive but also does not form any valuable connection with others as people might believe, and results in a lack of trust within the cooperative. (Brown 2018, 277.) This method can be used, for example, when the team needs to adapt to change, hold hard conversations and share feedback, face the problems within the organization, consider improvements, and during ethical decision-making (Brown 2018, 43).

As B. Brown explains: “There is probably not a single act at work that requires more Vulnerability than holding people responsible for ethics and values, especially when you are alone in it or there is a lot of money, power, or influence at stake .” (Brown 2018, 28) However, it is important to note, Vulnerability is not a personal marketing tool, and it has boundaries – otherwise, it is a confession, awe or Manipulation (Brown 2018, 39). To integrate people is to make the organization whole (the Latin root of the word “integrare” – “to make whole”) (inspired by B. Brown’s finding in her book “Dare to Lead”).



Trusting means taking a risk. It means stepping out of the comfort zone, being vulnerable and empathetic as well as learning how to forgive. It is a feeling of bond that is formed through cooperation, attention to detail, care, similar beliefs, and presence. Trust empowers. It supports People’s self-confidence and courage. To have trust is to have the confidence and support to take risks, even if those risks mean failing. And yet, once a person is ready to give trust to others without any mixed signals, similar to a trust fall, it is more likely to be returned.



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Ariely, D. 2019. Designing For Trust. Recorded public-speaking presentation. TEDxTalks. 24/05/2019. https://youtu.be/k5MfuwMNcMo [11.02.2023]


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