Listening to The Brown Years on Radio 4 this morning (utterly fantastic and something I will keep listening to), so much of Brown’s downfall appeared to do with trust. He had surrounded himself with competent loyal people, and then completely failed to trust them. One could argue that this stemmed from the fact that he had never been truly loyal to Blair and so expected people to act as he did, forever waiting to stab him in the back and take what he wanted. But this paranoia seemed to have a considerable affect on his ability to lead. How can you make sure you are making the right decisions if you only trust yourself?
I see this everyday at work. Senior leaders hire experienced people and then completely ignore their opinions and advice because they don’t trust them. It’s true that your subordinates probably don’t have your best interests at heart. But I also think it’s true that most people have the company’s best interests at heart, because what makes the company look good, makes them look good. I guess what I’m saying is: you should trust people’s ideas because they are hardly going to offer something which is going to crash and burn – they have a reputation to protect/build.
So why do senior leaders only trust themselves? Why do they not listen? Why, in my organisation’s case, do they so often choose to proceed in a way that will actively harm the organisation’s reputation as an employer? Does it really all come down to a permanent wait for someone to pull the rug from under their feet as they would do to someone else? And if so, surely we are promoting the wrong people to senior leaders?