The Law of Trust

in Business by Emily Snell

The Law of Trust

The Law of Trust

No matter the resume of a leader, we humans take turns leading and following – it’s built into the fabric of our ultrasocial human brains. Think of the hotshot vice president who is still the youngest child when she’s home with her family for the Holidays, or the tenured professor who sits in the pew like everyone else on Sunday morning and gives his minister his due respect when it’s his turn to lead. Or the colonel who commands an entire army base, but defers to generals when in their company.

Like everyone else, I also follow as a matter of course. I may have a tip or two to share on leadership in this blog, my keynotes, and my books, but there are dozens of situations in a typical week when I’m following, not leading. But what I’ve learned is there’s following for an hour here and there, and then there’s following a leader for a more meaningful, deeper commitment. When it comes to the latter, I’ve found these five rules – which together I call The Law of Trust – are absolutely indispensable. I hope you’ll find them helpful, too.

  1. Is she a good person? This one’s a little vague, so I added the next one for clarity:
  2. Will she be loyal to me, her follower? I’m talking mama bear loyalty, Liam Neeson in “Taken” loyalty; “Psycho Dad” loyalty. Will she put it all on the line if I need her to and if I’ve earned it?
  3. Does she know what she’s doing? There are a lot of good and loyal people out there who just don’t have the know-how to get where they’d like to go. I won’t follow them until they’ve gained those skills.
  4. Does she have the sense to adapt as needed? Leadership is all about changing course midstream, adjusting to a changing situation and finding – or making – a new way forward. Smart isn’t enough. Wise is also required to succeed as a leader. Of the two, I’ll take wisdom every time.
  5. Is this worthy of my time and energy? Maybe you’re thinking I should have put this one first, but here’s why I didn’t: we humans are supremely apt at talking ourselves into some bad decisions if we want something badly enough. By looking at the worthiness of an endeavor only after checking the first four rules off, you’ll be more certain to give those first four rules all the weight they deserve.

Taken together, those five rules add up to one law: The Law of Trust. I use this law whenever I’m judging a leader to see if I should follow. But it’s entirely possible I’ve missed something – maybe something important. Will you let me know in the comments if I am? I don’t just write to teach. Much more importantly, blogging helps me learn from other leaders in the Switch and Shift community. Leaders like you!

About the Author

Emily Snell

Emily is a contributing marketing author at where she regularly consults on content strategy and overall topic focus. Emily has spent the last 12 years helping hyper growth startups and well-known brands create content that positions products and services as the solution to a customer's problem.

Full Biography

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