Trust, challenge, change. An article by Johan Mellerup Traekjaer
Why the soft issues like trust, safety and vulnerability are the hardest issues we will ever deal with and why they matter in leadership
Author: Johan Mellerup Traekjaer, Amara Collaboration
In the world of business, we love to dichotomise everything. People vs. money, feelings vs. facts, results vs. wellbeing and soft skills vs. hard skills. However, from a bio-psychological perspective this is more of a cultural assumption than a reality. From the perspective of personal safety, the only dichotomy there is, is the one between safe with trust and unsafe with no trust and the competition it creates among different people, because at different organisational levels, one’s safety often becomes the other’s unsafety. For us to really understand how psychological safety and trust play the most important parts in our life and therefore in leadership, we must set aside almost all we have learned about our cognitive nature, including the dichotomy between emotions and rationality. More importantly, trust, safety and vulnerability are indeed hard issues that, if neglected, can drain the very productivity and creativity required in our volatile world.
This paper aims to provide a case for treating trust and psychological safety as hard issues with the current evidence from neuroscience combined with developmental leadership theory and organisational research, showing why it requires serious attention from leadership. The sting in the tail is the issue of challenge for without it, trust and safety can’t be tested robustly. Warm words about trust are indeed soft but combined with serious attention and the concomitant challenges it has a powerful currency in the future of work and the success of organisations. Leaders cannot afford to neglect it.
About the author
Johan has a diverse background ranging from academia to military and security work. In the early years working on the frontline as a protection officer, security operator and consultant as well as rehabilitation of young offenders. Eventually swinging in an academic direction, lecturing and researching cognitive science and organisational psychology, while still keeping a foot in the high stakes’ world training various operators in stress management, threat and tactical security behavior, as well as high risk conflict management. He has been leading an academic leadership program for senior noncom officers and air force pilots.
Johan has been exploring the space between science, spirituality and human development in various ways, mixing formal education, consultation and executive coaching with retreats deep inside the wildest places on the planet. Johan’s primary interest is the interplay between human consciousness, biological systems and physics. Johan lives in Denmark and enjoys his free time reading extensively, sea kayaking, running, self-defense and when there is time, exploring the wild.