Byron's Babbles

Killer Whale Leadership

imagesI am so excited to be bringing you another post inspired by the great book 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. Lesson #5 was entitled “How To Train Your Killer Whale.” In this story, Stewart, told us how trainers of Killer Whales will spend up to three years training before even getting in the water with these incredible creatures weighing six tons and measuring in at 26 feet. The amazing part is, though, that once a trust is built the relationship between whale and trainer is a thing of beauty. Trainers get to know the whales and a relationship is built as they begin to work together. I believe this is a powerful metaphor to us as leaders. Trust is not something you can go to a workshop, learn, and suddenly have. In fact, I laugh when I see workshops advertising trust building and relationship building. You simply cannot do that in a workshop. Are you telling me that the person you really don’t know that well that catches you in the falling backward game that all of those workshops have you do will catch you when everything falls apart back at your organization? She may or may not, but I want the person I have formed the relationship with and built the trust to know she has my back. Additionally, I want her to know that I have her back.

“When there is mutual trust, there will be quality performance.” ~ John Parker Stewart


So, how do we build this trust with our people? I believe it is working shoulder to shoulder with those we lead. You can only build true trust in the context within which you work. Here is my list of how leaders build trust:

  • Being competent. It is very important for everyone to see that we know what we are doing.
  • Walking the Talk and Walking the Walk. Do we do what we say and say what we mean? Do we live our own and the organization’s core values?
  • Be passionate about what we do.
  • Be self aware and show behavioral integrity.
  • Care about those you lead.
  • Wanting the best for others, even to the point of recommending them for another job that might take them away from you.
  • We must have perspective and understand the context of our people and organization.
  • Manage direction and work, not people. Lead people.
  • Say thank you and give credit where credit is due.
  • See beyond self.

Effective leaders nurture and grow trust in many ways. How do you build trust with those you work with? Here’s what I’ve learned: leaders who build trust are magnets for the best talent, ideas, and contributions.


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