Idea in Brief

The Starting Point

The traditional leadership narrative is all about you: your talents, charisma, and moments of courage and instinct. But real leadership is about your people and creating the conditions for them to fully realize their own capacity and power. To do this, you have to develop stores of trust.

The Challenge

How do leaders build trust? By focusing on its core drivers: authenticity, logic, and empathy. People tend to trust you when they think they’re interacting with the real you, when they have faith in your judgment and competence, and when they believe you care about them.

The Way Forward

When leaders have trouble with trust, it’s usually because they’re weak on one of those three drivers. To develop or restore trust, identify which driver you’re “wobbly” on, and then work on strengthening it.

On a spring afternoon in 2017, Travis Kalanick, then the CEO of Uber, walked into a conference room at the company’s Bay Area headquarters. One of us, Frances, was waiting for him. Meghan Joyce, the company’s general manager for the United States and Canada, had reached out to us, hoping that we could guide the company as it sought to heal from a series of deep, self-inflicted wounds. We had a track record of helping organizations, many of them founder-led, tackle messy leadership and culture challenges.

A version of this article appeared in the May–June 2020 issue of Harvard Business Review.