How trust creates leaders and the six macro-abilities for leadership


In software development, beyond technical skills, leadership competencies influence the evolution of projects, teamwork, and productivity. Improving your skills as a leader is a continuous process, and trust is an essential element in the journey.
Our colleague from Nordlogic, Sebastian Muntean, will get you through the six leadership macro-abilities that will help you build competencies and character. You will discover valuable insights from his project management experience that will support you in achieving the most incredible goals with your team.

There are many definitions as well as opinions about what leadership is or how it should be. With eleven years of experience in management positions where I was in charge of different business teams and business projects, I’m adding my thoughts on this topic and trying to paint a high-level picture of what leadership means to me and the way I push myself  to apply it.

Of course, there is a standard definition in the dictionaries for the word “Leader,” which doesn’t convince me, so my definition is the following:

A leader is a person others will choose to follow because they trust him/her to drive them to the greater good.


Management vs Leadership


In the last approximately 5 years, I’ve seen a trend in shifting the term “manager” to “leader”, and this got adopted more and more within companies and organizations, where people put in management positions were called “leaders” instead of “managers”.

I think this is a distortion of the leadership concept. “Leader” is not a job. Coordinator, Team leader, Manager, Director, Head of, VP, Chief … officer, President, are jobs and different people are assigned to these jobs, but this doesn’t make them a leader per se. These jobs usually have a leadership component, but very few of the people taking the positions will also succeed in delivering it. Constant hard work and consistency are  needed for the person on the job to become a leader. In other words, not all people in management positions will become leaders, but all leaders will be, at some point good managers, and you’ll see a bit later why. 

Even if I understand the reasons behind this shift, I think it’s not right. It’s actually more damaging for the organizations than constructive because, in the majority of the cases it ends up with an organization that  doesn’t trust the “Leader”, which leads to organizational anomalies like political games, internal competition, gossip, burn out, loss of focus, loss of creativity, loss of innovation and loss of speed in delivery.

Leadership without mutual trust is a contradiction in terms”, Warren Bennis, author of “On Becoming a Leader”


The importance of trust


In leadership trust is mandatory; without it, there are no followers, so nothing to lead. Who would follow someone who is not trustworthy, but also who would follow someone who doesn’t trust them? Let’s better understand how leaders can grow and develop trust.

Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book, “Speed of Trust” describes trust as the result of the following two components combined: Character and Competence. Character, according to him, is the result of integrity and good motive, while competence is the result of skill and results (or track record). 

While competence is something that can be built relatively fast if there is the right attitude, character is something very difficult to change because its roots are stuck deep into early education, environment, and experiences. So, it’s better to keep around you people with good character. To give an example of  how character and competence produce trust in a person, think of a nanny. You will trust the person to handle your children until you are away because you know the nanny has good character through integrity and good motive and also has the competence to do it. At the same time, while you are away, you will not let your business to your nanny even though he/she has great character, but doesn’t have the competence through skill and track record.

It’s the same with leaders; people will always and unconsciously look for the two elements in any person to build trust. Just think of a manager you don’t trust and imagine the gossip around him. Now think of a manager that you really trust… it’s very different, right? Would you follow that person on his quest or journey? Most probably, yes. So, let’s find out why! What makes this person different from others that will make us trust and follow him/her, and why would we like to be part of that person’s team?

This brings me to the six macro-abilities that, anecdotal speaking, I consider to be the key elements to creating a leader today and in the future. The first three generate competence because this is what creates trust fast, and the second three generate character, which builds trust for the long term, and together they generate the trust that we are all looking for in a person to lead our way.



Six leadership macro-abilities

Demonstrate competence


1. Vision is mandatory in leadership. It’s about defining and reinventing reality, which is the greater good that we are waiting for and want to dream about. It’s about creativity, and we all want to have those brilliant people around to take us out of our daily monotony and help us imagine new things that would make our lives better and easier. 

To have vision is not easy. First, you need to be able to disconnect from time to time from your daily issues and routine and take  a step back to let your creativity blossom. Some helpful facilitators for creativity are having connections and a wide network of people or being exposed to a diversity of ideas and knowing  where and how to get relevant information. Second, you have to train and develop your systemic thinking, or as  a colleague says, be a global dots connector. This means being  able to have a high-level view and be able to understand the butterfly effect, how an insignificant action can create disruptions far away from where it happened. Not many people visualize or understand such long-run connections, this is why, I think those who have this ability are very close to becoming a leader, but this is not enough.

2. Strategic mindset“In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” Miyamoto Musashi – Japanese swordsman and samurai

Being strategic involves abilities like looking into the future and anticipating future trends and their impact. It’s also about accurate planning and about moving into the future by showing a clear connection between the vision, its intentions , and the actions taken. Just think about it like this, the vision can be extraordinary, but it’s so far away from the truth that it’s intangible, so without a good and clear strategy, it will only remain a dream. A leader will also show and lead the way and make the vision achievable for the followers by splitting it into medium and long-term achievable steps (SMART objectives) that will transform the vision into a vector that provides direction and sense.

3. Tactical thinking – But what about the short-term steps? This is all about tactics because it’s not only about how you win the “war”, but it’s also about how you win today’s “battle” so you can continue and follow your strategy. Tactics relate very well with day-to-day management. This is why I mentioned it in the beginning, a good manager will not always become a leader, but a good leader will for sure be, at some point, a good manager. 

In the short term, the leader has to make decisive decisions which involve adaptability, agility, problem-solving  and management skills. When I say management, I’m thinking of the entire spectrum: people, time, cost, risk, stakeholder, operations, and resources management. That is what a leader needs to make sure that nobody will stop the quest for the vision. Of course, he doesn’t have to do all this all the time by himself, but being able to do it in the most critical moments will make the difference between an achievable objective and a dream.

Personal experience: Whatever the level of competence I had in any management role, in any organization, there were three categories of people, pull forward, the ones who trusted me and together would pull and drive the team towards my vision, no action, the ones who are comfortable and will just go in the direction where we would pull them and the pull backward, the ones who pull in the opposite direction. All three categories must exist and are very important for a healthy organization. Still, it’s  important that the pull forwards are more than the pull backward as a good indicator for leadership.   

Vision, strategy and tactics are a leader’s three macro-abilities to demonstrate competence. This is very important because competence is the easiest way to build trust quickly and get followers fast. But how would you be able to keep them in the long run? This is where the character plays an imperative role.

Building character


4. Integrity – I really like the story of Mahatma Gandhi when he spoke in the house of commons in England at first, the crowd was disrespectful and against him, but after two hours of speech, without being prepared with any notes in advance, he went out in ovation and applause. Then one of the newsmen asked Gandhi’s secretary how was this possible, and his answer was “What Gandhi thinks, what he feels, what he says, and what he does are all the same. He does not need notes… you and I, we think one thing, feel another, say a third, and do a fourth , so we need notes and files to keep track.” Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s secretary.

The foundation of character is the congruence between what you think, what you feel, what you say and what you do. Many people consider integrity to be equal to saying the truth, but what you say is just a small part of it. It’s about what you think when you are alone, what you feel with your heart, what you say when the followers are not around, and what you do to get results. The congruence between mind, heart, speech, and action creates unbreakable integrity.

5. Care – a leader needs to care about people. Would you choose to follow someone knowing he/she doesn’t care about you? It’s really that simple. Probably the leader will blind you in the beginning with the competence, but in  the long run, you will not miss it. It’s in human nature that we need to know that someone out there cares about us. Caring is a huge deposit of trust because it creates hope and motivation to support the vision.

Care involves abilities like empathy, customer focus, drive engagement, coaching, and mentoring to help people get smarter and better.

Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI 2041”, considers empathy as one of the most important human abilities in the future, where computers and machines will be more present in our daily lives than ever before. Empathy plays a very important role and is the highest form of communication because it’s not only about listening, talking, and providing feedback, but it’s also about putting yourself  in the other’s “shoes” to feel what the other person feels and this gives the leader a very different perspective and understanding of life. You can’t play empathy; you can develop it only if you really care.

If you care, you also need to help people grow. Leaders will keep people engaged and will allocate time for coaching, be supportive, and share their knowledge without being afraid that they will become obsolete. They will help people develop as they expect others to develop them.

6. Collaboration is the final macro-ability for a leader and is about understanding that you are not alone and you can’t succeed alone. Having this in mind, the leader will be able to create powerful networks by searching for talent, bringing talent around him, and putting talented people to work together. By doing this, the leader will have a great advantage in driving his vision. 

But collaboration will not work without having trust in others. Until now I’ve been explaining how the leader can build trust and get trusted by the people, but to truly become a leader, the person has to trust others the same way the followers trust him. Through real collaboration, the leader will never walk alone (as the Heineken commercial say) and will have the opportunity to extend responsibility and accountability through others. Like this, he will create a living organism that  will drive itself toward the vision, and that is when the leader will let the ego behind and his power behind because these will not matter anymore since an organism is more powerful than one cell.

Personal experience: In every team I’ve led, there were more competent people than me, and in some cases, they were in the third category of pulling backward. It would have been very difficult for me to manage the team only by competence, but with good character, the odds changed and turned out to be in my favor every time. I have learned that I should never marginalize the pull backward, and even if, in some situations, I feared what they could do to my team and my ideas, I always tried to do the contrary and keep them engaged and relevant in the discussions. And guess what? Even if it can be very difficult in the beginning, it was actually more beneficial in the long run because everyone was put face to face with clear arguments, and I understood why my ideas were sometimes wrong. They did the same with their ideas and not because I was saying so. The team was getting to the conclusion together and we had to make decisions together and be able to build together. The point was not to go in my direction, but together to make the best decisions for the business. Sometimes I didn’t collaborate well, and sometimes I failed to collaborate, but this is the beauty of learning, to be acceptable to make mistakes and have the courage to make mistakes, but unacceptable to repeat them.


I’ve presented first the macro-abilities which drive competence: Vision, Strategic mindset, and Tactical thinking because competence is the easiest and fastest way to build trust. On the other hand, the easiest way to destroy trust it’s through bad character: Poor integrity, no Care, or bad Collaboration, but through consistency of learning to develop good competence and good character you can consolidate long-term trust and this is what you need to become a leader.


Leadership is not given; leadership is a consequence of your abilities aligned with your actions. Instead of accepting low standards that we could easily achieve, we should create higher standards that we shall pursue and push ourselves for greatness.

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