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People Without Chests

While working with a group of executives our conversation went to the topic of trust.

We easily reached consensus that “trust is the basis around which all human relationships revolve… when there’s low trust, there’s a fragile, tenuous relationship; when there’s no trust, there’s no relationship.”

By definition, trusting someone means you think they are reliable, that you have confidence in them, and you feel safe with them physically and emotionally. In fact, there is a Trust Equation that evaluates the level of one’s motives, your competencies to accomplish the task and the behaviors by which you conduct yourself and treat others. Overall, we tend to score ourselves highly in these areas, and reasonably so.

However, motives, competencies and behaviors, when added together, must be divided by the denominator of self-focus. The higher the self-focus, the less trust we earn. The lower our self-focus, the greater trust we are awarded.

Self-focus doesn’t necessarily cause people to be immoral, malicious, or awful – such obvious behaviors would catch our attention and elicit a response. We would take corrective action. Rather, self-focus tends to make a person shallow, insincere, egocentric. A person may be proper, gracious and inviting on the outside, but on the inside, many are scraping and clutching for the power to get what they want, when they want it – the power to get ahead. Such people without conscience step on each other – they step on us – and the sad result is that we will not trust them.

CS Lewis called such folk people without chests. They may have reason (represented by the head) or instincts and drives (represented by the gut), but they don’t have hearts. These people are not guided by their values or influenced by feelings (emotional intelligence), but instead they are driven by their desires for power and profit and recognition, often as a by-product of their anger and their fears.

Lewis writes: “In sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ (heart) and demand the function. We make people without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.”

In TAI’s work with executives we see much self-focus in leaders and in aspiring leaders – self-focus that inhibits the trust required to inspire followers to great accomplishments. Truth be told, absent accountability to others, I too can be prone to excessive self-focus. Where do you stand?

Are you a person with a heart – are you a leader that can be trusted? Or, are you a person without a chest? What will you do about it?


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