An old African proverb – “The stranger sees only what He knows”
To trust other people we need to know that they are competent to do what we need them to do. For a leader this requires not only technical or professional competence, but also the ability to get things done in a particular context. So it includes knowledge and experience about the way an organisation works in practice, how decisions are taken and a certain political savvy (i.e. Sensitivity to Context in terms of WorldWork’s International Competency Framework). A recent HBR article by a Harvard professor and experienced business leader make this point more fully.
Why are Hannibal Lecter and Dr. Moriarty so successful as villains? Partly because they are intelligent and competent, but also because we can’t work out what they will do next. They are unpredictable and so we cannot see what their intentions are, but we can see from their track record that they are not likely to be benign intentions! This gives us a clue as to why it is so important for other people to be able to see and understand your positive intentions before they can trust you or follow you as a leader? A professor of business administration at Harvard and an experienced business leader provide a convincing explanation of why ‘Exposing Intentions’ is an essential part of building trust and followership, especially where cultural differences make it difficult to interpret more subtle messages about our intentions.