S1:E9 – Broken Trust: How To Put The Pieces Back Together Again


In this episode, Bridgette and Irvine explore the importance of trust in our lives. Trust enables connection and is essential for us to be our most productive. But what happens when trust is broken? Can you recover it, and if so, who do you do it?



Don’t forget to check out my You Tube channel with new videos every Wednesday on emotional intelligence, resilience, and leadership.

Check out Irvine’s new book Leadership Lessons From The Pub.

Check out Bridgette’s book which she co-authored with Bod Duggan  Resilient Leadership 2.0.

And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources some of which are mentioned in each episode. 


Bridgette: Well, welcome everybody to The Resilient Leadership podcast, where everything we talk about is aimed at helping you to lead with a greater sense of calm, clarity, and conviction even in anxious times. My name is Bridgette Theurer, I am joined by my wonderful co-host Irvine Nugent. Hello, Irvine.

Irvine: Hello, Bridgette. How are you?

Bridgette: I am doing peachy keen, as I used to say, when people would ask me how you are doing, I’d say peachy keen. They’d go where on earth did you get that from? And I’m like, well, I had an aunt who’s from the south, and that she would say all the time.

Irvine: I love it.

Bridgette: So, have you ever heard that expression before?

Irvine: I have a few times. I lived in Florida for 21 years, so it did come into my vocabulary every now and again.

Bridgette: There you go.

Irvine: Can’t say I’ve ever used it, but….

Bridgette: Okay. Well, so that’s how I’m doing. I’m doing great, and I’m very excited about this topic.

Irvine: Yeah, me too.

Bridgette: Okay. So, we are going to be talking about busting the charisma myth. As you and I have chatted Irvine, it is a myth that I think a lot of leaders hold. That man, to be really effective as a leader, you got to be charismatic, and the problem with that assumption is what if you’re not? Because we know if we’re not, it can, I think, erode our confidence. So, we’re going shine a giant spotlight on this assumption and hang around because we’re going talk about two other qualities that are much more essential to your success in the long run than charisma is. Yeah, but let’s, Irvine, start with this. What is charisma and why do you think we are all so drawn to it?

Irvine: It’s an interesting question because I remember a few years ago I ran this workshop and it used charisma in the title. It talked about someone walks in the room, heads turn, they’ve got charisma and people signed up for and droves because there is this, what is it? It’s such an interesting term because we know it when we see it, but it’s so difficult to describe. So, I thought maybe let’s start today with the dictionary and let’s pull out the old Oxford Dictionary. And this is how the Oxford Dictionary defines charisma, I think is really interesting. It it’s exercising a compelling charm that inspires devotion in others. Whoa. Now that’s a pretty heavy thing for leaders to live up to.

Bridgette: Who doesn’t want to be charming?

Irvine: Absolutely. I know. So, this compelling charm and this magnetism, this devotion in others. It leads to that question, well, are you born with it? Or how do you get it, et cetera. And I think, in many ways it’s tied into this extroverted, larger than life character who walks in and they’re vibrant and they’re charismatic and people notice it. And if we’re very honest, there is a bias towards extroversion in leadership and research is showing that. And we also feel that to be this great leader, we have to be this amazingly extroverted charismatic person. So, what actually is wonderful in the last number of years has been a couple of really powerful leadership books, which are looking at the introverted person.

Bridgette: Yeah.

Irvine: One is called The Introverted Leader, the other famous one is Quiet and both of them are talking about, you know what? Introverted leaders also have gifts, which come out. I think it’s important as a society, we do have a bias against introverted people. My mind always goes to when there’s a crime or something like describe the person. Well, they were a [inaudible 03:50] and they kept to themselves, because those introverts did it again. But I do think that it’s important to realize that there are other ways of leading that are effective.

Bridgette: Yes. And not only that, but we’re going go so far as to say that there’s a shadow side to charisma, right?

Irvine: Yes.

Bridgette: So, of course, if you’re charismatic, you can use it to your advantage because it draws people to you. But Irvine, speak a little bit more to, I don’t know, whatever pluses you think there are, but what about that shadow side?

Irvine: Well, the pluses are just look at that definition, inspires devotion. So, the pluses are there is this forward momentum that charismatic, and leaders have, and they can push people forward and people, not just even push, people want to follow them. So, they do. They have a great ability in inspiring others to, for forward momentum, inspiring trust in others, et cetera. And all of that is very powerful, however, just you say there is a dark side and there is a dark side to this, and I think it’s very important. And that is the weight of this, I think, has the potential in both overshadowing, other people, and making them a little bit dependent on the leader. We’ve talked in another episode about over and under functioning. And I think when you’ve leaders with this great sense of charism, they can over function.

What happens is the others under function. And I think that’s really important as well because what we mean by under and over functioning, by over functioning, that means the leader takes this responsibility to feel and act for other people and it just erodes their capacity for ownership. So, I think that is… I remember I was coaching a leader a few years ago who was very charismatic person. And one of the things that we came up in discussion was that they became more aware of the impact of their presence. And they became very aware that their very presence prevented other people from speaking up and the realization was, I really need to be a lot quieter at times. I really need to learn how to listen. And so, it some of that dark side that was coming out and their realization.

Bridgette: Yeah. I get that. It’s reminding me of somebody that I coached many years ago, very charismatic when this person started their company, that charisma was a beautiful thing for clients attracting clients, and attracting media attention, and recruiting people, and rallying people charge up the hill until it wasn’t because you can’t really scale on the backs of a single personality.

Irvine: Yeah.

Bridgette: And an organization has to learn to think for itself, people have to learn to think for themselves. They have to learn to lift themselves up and charge then recharge themselves. But when you’re in the presence of a charismatic leader, you can kind of just lose all of that and just lay it at their feet, like you said.

Irvine: Yeah. And I think you alluded to at the beginning, so if that is the case then, what is important? And I think what we both like to draw attention into today is those two qualities of clarity and consistency. And we don’t use those, just pulling them out of thin air, there’s actually good reasons for those. And I know Bridgette, we try and ground a lot of our thinking and a lot of our conversations in neuroscience, so do you want to talk a little bit about why is clarity and can consistency important and what’s going on in the brain?

Bridgette: Yeah. Well, first of all, just listening to you, it’s immediately obvious that clarity and consistency don’t have the same allure as charisma. And yet from a neuroscience point of view and from a perspective, which is what we’re all about here, a clear and consistent leader wins the day, and an inconsistent and unclear leader wreaks havoc on people’s nervous systems. So why is that? And it has to do with one of the things the human brain loves to do, which is predictions. So, we take data, and then the brain goes, okay, well, based on that data, what’s the weather going to be tomorrow? And what kind of a week am I going have? And how’s my family going be? And we’re going have enough money to pay the bills. And we make predictions, and we want to feel confident in those predictions and when we do it calms and when we don’t, it makes us really anxious and then we can’t do our best thinking. So, a leader who isn’t being clear and consistent is unpredictable and man, is that triggering for us. Like you can’t predict how your manager is going act or react, it sets you, it puts you on edge.

So, a clear and consistent leader helps the organization to be calmer and it helps people to do better thinking. So that’s the neuroscience behind it, so now we got to pump up the clear and consistent leader and talk about what it looks like in action, because while it might not have the same immediate allure, when we talk about what it looks like in action concretely, we can really see why it matters so much. So, what does a clear and consistent leader look like in action?

Irvine: That’s a really interesting question because I think you alluded to the fact that they’re really both sides of a coin, but let’s try and clarify both just for the sake of doing it. So, the first of what does clarity look like in, in leadership? And I go as far and say that clarity is the lifeblood of an organization and that when leaders are able to communicate their values, their priorities, their expectations in a clear manner, it is amazing what can happen in an organization. I think what happens, we see alignment, we see a building up of trust, clarity of execution, clarity of roles, et cetera. And all of those are incredibly important because I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in so many coaching conversations and so many organizations where clarity is just not present.

I’m not clear about my role and responsibility. And so, if you’re not clear about your role and responsibility, that has huge impact. So, the impact of course is then, well, if I don’t know what I should be doing, why don’t I just do everything? Or why did I [inaudible 10:42] in other people, et cetera, or the person can say, well, then I just give up, so that kind of clarity is important. Clarity of values as well, because we know that people stay in organizations where they espouse the values that there’s meaning. And so, if a leader has clarity about the values, then I think employees can come around and, there’s clarity about that. One question I like to… in a coaching conversation with leader, and sometimes this comes up where leaders think, this is the problem, leaders think they are very clear but as my mother used to say there, as clear as mud at times.

And what happens, a question I like to ask is, do you know what your values are? And then the next question is, and if I ask that to anyone in your team, would they be able to tell me the same response? And for very often that’s where the failure is. There isn’t clarity around that you see, because you can be charismatic all you want, but if what you’re saying doesn’t have clarity, then I think you’re really failing at this kind of fundamental area of organizational life.

Bridgette: Yes. And I’m guessing this has been your experience as well, but leaders will assume they’ve been clearer than they have been, not just values, but about a lot of stuff. And they’ll say, oh yeah, we’ve communicated that many times. We’ve sent that. We sent out an email and then we resent it. And I think that the reason leaders can sometimes think there’s clarity when there isn’t one, you might have talked a lot of about it with a colleague or inside your own head you’ve had conversations and it feels like you’ve communicated it, but I think it’s a lot because here’s a distinction we often don’t spend enough time with. And that is, there’s a difference between just sharing a message, communicating, sharing, and building shared understanding. They are not the same thing.

And shared understanding takes dialogue, and it takes time. I got to check in and see, did you get the same thing from that conversation that I did? Are we really on the same page? How do I know and share understanding is what truly builds commitment and alignment as you were talking about and forward momentum? So again, you can be really charismatic in a meeting and make everybody feel really good and guess what, people walk away with a completely different idea of what is expected, needed or wanted, and that is going lead to difficulties. Okay. So now that’s like clarity, but now, like you said, two sides of the same coin, but what about consistency?

So, I think consistency is… well let’s point to maybe consistency in a number of different areas. So, I think the first thing is this consistency in words that the leader is walking the talk and we’ve heard this so often. And, you know, we are hardwired to trust leaders who actually say something and follow through and actually do it. So, as a leader says, and leader does. You talk about inspirational leadership, and very often we think about the great charismatic leader, but inspirational could be the leader that stays behind at the end of a party and helps clean up, that I’m in this together. I’ve seen that a few times, and people like, wow, they’re really in this. So, this is not just talk for me, it actually is something that is meaningful.

And I think the other one then is, they deliver the consistency of message. One of the insidious things I see in some organizations is that the message changes a little bit, depending on who is receiving the message. And as someone who loves to be loved, one of my little dark areas, I can see that I can see that happening, that I don’t want to upset this person so let me change the message, I don’t want to upset someone. So, that consistency of messaging, no matter who it’s to no matter, even if it might upset people, because at the end of the day, if our principles and our vision and our priorities are important over the long haul, that will be important. So, I think that’s really important as well.

And then the last thing I would just say is about organizational values, they’re consistent about organizational values, and they don’t bend just to bend. And so, in all other words, you know, what’s good for me is good for everyone, and we’re going to be consistent in how we apply those organizational values and not change them for depending on who it is. And I think that all builds up a level of trust and makes people really trust and be loyal to those qualities in a leader.

Bridgette: Yeah. And the thing also that is really standing out for me in this moment is that being a clear and consistent leader are skills that anybody can learn but being charismatic may or may not be in your Bailey wig. and that’s okay, because as we’ve been discussing, charisma is not going to win the day in terms of leading people through turbulent change or scaling and growing your organization. Can you be a really clear leader who builds shared understanding and shared commitment around a shared future? And can you be consistent in a way that allows people to really follow you? And we can all do better in that, whether or not we have a charismatic bone in our body, so to speak. I love that. So, if you are listening to this and you’re thinking to yourself, well, but I am charismatic, and so is that a problem? I hope it’s clear, no, it’s not a problem. It can be a very powerful gift. And I also hope that you recognize that in and of itself, it’s not enough. It’s not enough. And if you don’t have charisma naturally you no longer have to be insecure about that.

Irvine: Yeah, I would just go back to that for… my personality’s naturally more extroverted and I’m very passionate in how I show up and how I led, and I had to learn kind of, that at times that that’s a gift, but at times as well, it also requires me to really learn some of the gifts of the opposite of what that is.

Bridgette: Yes. And I would say for me I’ve always been more introverted, quieter, thoughtful, not necessarily the first one or the last one to speak. I would not say I’m charismatic per se. And yet, what I do know is that I can inspire people and a lot of times, the way I inspire people is because my communication is so accessible and clear that it allows people to have insight, to grab hold of something that they didn’t have hold of before. So, there are lots of different ways to lead and from a systems perspective, being clear and consistent, especially during times of change, we can’t say enough how critical that is and everybody can learn how to do that.

Irvine: Yeah. Bridgette, you shared a little social media posting with me when we’re putting this together and we’re recording this it’s towards the end of March, and unfortunately, the terrible war between the Ukraine and Russia is still going on, but it was pointing to the leadership of President Zelenskyy. And it was very interesting how it was pointing to the fact that he is not a very charismatic person, but boy is there clarity and consistency in the messaging and it’s this almost quiet leadership and the power of that. And I think it’s just a great example as well, of what we’ve been talking about.

Bridgette: Yeah. Because really his power comes from his conviction. The clarity of his conviction, the principles upon which he stands and what he stands for. It’s a beautiful example right now in the world today of really leadership by principle and not leadership by being persuaded by the emotional pressures of the day.

Irvine: Yeah, absolutely. So, Bridgette, if we were going to go into an exercise, we always try and leave our listeners with something to mull and to chew before the next episode. So, what would be a core practice in this area?

Bridgette: So, this is a really simple one, but I think can be powerful. And it’s a single question to ask yourself maybe, put this somewhere where once every couple of weeks, you’re going look at the question and you’re going take a couple of breaths and think about it. And here’s the question. Where do I need to be clearer about what, and with whom? Simple. Where do I need to be clear about what, and with whom? Invariably, if you take a long enough look, there are little pockets where there’s not shared understanding, where there’s not wholehearted alignment, where your understanding of expectations is maybe not quite as clear as theirs. So that’s the practice.

Irvine, I love that. Where do I need to be clear about what, when, with whom? That is such a powerful question, that’s such a powerful and something to really mull over when we’re going into difficulties, and trying to express messages, et cetera. Fantastic. Really great question.

Bridgette: Yeah. Well, this has been a fun conversation. Thank you so much, Irvine for helping me to bust the charisma myth for our listeners.

Irvine: My pleasure. It’s been a fun converse; I really enjoyed this one.

Bridgette: And so next time, our next episode is kind of we’re going build a little bit on some of what we talked about today, because we’re talking about broken trust and how to pick up the pieces. And you alluded a little bit to that today Irvine when you talked about how a consistent leader consistent in their messaging and their values builds trust. So, we’ll talk a little bit more about that. If you have a situation where you feel like trust has been broken and you want to learn more about how to repair it, tune in next time and as always, we thank you for being a part of this conversation and we look forward to having you with us next time.

Irvine: Likewise. Goodbye everyone.

Bridgette: Take good care. Bye.

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