Deprecated: Hook custom_css_loaded is deprecated since version jetpack-13.5! Use WordPress Custom CSS instead. Jetpack no longer supports Custom CSS. Read the documentation to learn how to apply custom styles to your site: in /customers/2/a/2/ on line 6078 Deprecated: Function is_staging_site is deprecated since version 3.3.0! Use in_safe_mode instead. in /customers/2/a/2/ on line 6078 Fear or Trust - Leading for the Future - Otolith Consulting Deprecated: Function is_staging_site is deprecated since version 3.3.0! Use in_safe_mode instead. in /customers/2/a/2/ on line 6078 Skip to main content


As an advisor and coach, I work in different industries and organizations. What strikes me is that in some fear is primarily present. In others, it is courage and trust.

Are organizations where there is less anxiety better prepared for the future than the ones with more fear?

Fear is omnipresent in society and organizations. Boards of directors are under pressure from shareholders; CEOs are under pressure from the board of directors. Sales Directors are trying to maintain and expand the market share, and economic growth is becoming the norm. In the K-curved economic model, we see organizations growing rapidly and others declining fast due to the Covid-19 crisis. Pressure, power, and anxiety were already part of our culture and society. Covid-19 does not help in that. Individuals, teams and organizations are trying to defend themselves against a common enemy.

It is important not to confuse directive leadership and the creation of fear. Directive leadership can be very effective (in times of crisis), but it is never sustainable.


Trust in leaders and the courage that leaders have is paramount. Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman (1995) positioned trust as “​the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectations that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party.”

In one of their reports, Edelman shows that we distrust most the very wealthy, governmental leaders and religious leaders. In CEOs and journalists, our trust is neutral. And we trust most scientists and people in our local community. In the same research, they mention that ethics is by far more critical than competence. Are you surprised?

So, my take is: if you want people to be loyal, give the best of themselves, think outside of the box, be agile to change and build on the future of the organization, then lead by trust and courage, not by fear.

Lead by trust and courage, not by fear.

How to approach it?

One of my clients focuses on building trust at all layers in the organization. How do they approach that? The CEO and senior management are leading according to their values and they expect that from others.

Sentences I often hear are: “Teams and people are most important at our company” or “we are transparent toward each other”. Values like co-creation empowerment and humility are not only shown on the walls but you can see it in the day to day behavior. During candidate interviewing, always done in teams and via behavioral event interviewing, candidates are asked about examples.

The demands are high but there is tolerance for failure. They are very transparent about what they do and about their results even to people who work as a consultant. They make decisions based on facts and are having transparent and open conversations. If they don’t know they dare to say they don’t know.

All those factors make sure that there is trust.

Trust starts with the leaders, they build sustainable leadership, create a context where people feel safe and can be who they are. People don’t need to leave their real selves outside the door. They behave in a trustworthy way, inspire others to do so and hold others accountable to that.

And what about your organization?
Is your organization managed mainly by fear or by trust?

Look at your organization through this lens and make this a topic for discussion.

Lead by trust and courage, not by fear.

Philippe PersynSenior Consultant

Sign Up for our Newsletter.

Get 30 days free when you sign up now.

As a Seasoned Human Resources and Change Leader for over 20 years, Philippe has extensive experience of working in organizations in a local and international context. He worked for an IT startup company & JNJ and has built a track record as HR leader. Amongst other topics he has worked on: - the challenge of reconciling high performance and well-being - change in organisations - strategy - team coaching - individual coaching - well-being.

Leave a Reply

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy