How a Leader is the Trustee of the Intangibles


imageAs a leader, people put their hopes, their dreams, and their fears in you.  You are the container of their intangibles.

Your power as a leader comes from being a good steward of their dreams.  Your ability to lead, and your perceived ability to lead, is directly related to your connection to those intangibles.  That’s why emotional intelligence and empathy are such a big deal when it comes to being an effective leader.  People have to trust that you have their best interest at heart, or all bets are off.

In the book, It’s Not About You, Bob Burg and John David Mann write about how the leader is a trustee of the intangibles.

You Become the Trustee of the Intangibles

As a leader, you take on the hopes, dreams, aspiration, and fears of the people you lead.  Burg and Mann write:

“As a leader, you become the container of others’ hopes.  When we say people put their trust in you, that is exactly what happens.  They place their hopes and dreams, trust and faith, even their fears, in your hands, because these things feel too fragile, too big, too important, too valuable to hold onto by themselves.  You become the trustee of their intangibles.”

You Hold Them Up

One of the key capabilities of a leader is to lift people up, when they can’t lift themselves.  Burg and Mann write:

“Like a good chair.  You hold them.  Believe in them when they forget how to believe in themselves.”

You are the Steward, Not the Deal

Always remember that the reason you are the leader, is because you are the steward of their dreams.  Burg and Mann write:

“But, you are not their dreams, you are only the steward of those dreams.  And leaders too often get it backwards and start thinking they not only hold the best of others but that they are that best.  They start thinking they are the deal.  And the moment you begin thinking that it’s all about you, that you’re the deal, is the moment you being losing your capacity to positively influence other’s lives.  In a word, to lead.”

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  1. Combine that with Gandhi’s “Action expresses priorities” from your other post and you get recipe for success.

  2. JD,
    I just read the book “It’s Not About You”…and loved it. Such great lessons shared, and in story format – it just made the whole book such a fun read!

    And this idea of being a steward – one that resonates very much with me (now to put this into practice even more deeply in my life…).

  3. Good review and sharing.

    I have to say JD that this is how I was the leader of the two churches I served – and it was not appreciated…I was supposed to do it all…and many of the folks resented that I encouraged their stars to shine…

    How does one learn how to be their best without being encouraged and doing the work…

    I think having an overview is so important…but my groups wanted a super star leader.

    I think too our President was this kind of leader and we hoped he would excel at this style, but has turned out to be in the hands of the money too often….What can one person truly accomplish? Gandhi did the work and then others followed.

    Too much money and greed these days?

  4. JD, a stirring call out post for us to lead as it has an amazing voice of energy. To lead is to hold people’s very hopes and futures in standing as their figurehead. It is a responsibility and an honour at the same time. But, it should never ever be taken lightly.

  5. One of the most critical things that I have learned about leadership is to: give credit and take blame. It’s amazing how much more respect you will get by simply following that mentality.

  6. JD – this is a powerful post – on so many dimensions. thank you for calling this out – and reminding all of us.

  7. @ Lance — The book was really well done. I was surprised to actually enjoy the story, and how the lessons were weaved. It had a lot of depth, and the insight popped.

    I wonder if the question is, “Why?” … and, if the question is “Why?”, then maybe the answer is, “Because we can.”

    @ Patricia — It takes empathy and skill to see what’s valued. And when there’s a delta, it’s a tough choice whether to adapt yourself, adjust the circumstances, or avoid the situation completely.

    @ John — It’s a tender kind of strength. The source of power seems to flow from compassion, and courage.

    @ Scott — You have learned a powerful lesson. Giving credit and taking blame are true hallmarks of respected leaders.

    @ John — It’s got me thinking deeply, on how much leadership is a shared adventure, and how the emotional connection is what gives the journey its juice.

  8. So much responsibility in being a leader.

    I think the more we make our own dreams part of our followers’ reality, the better we will bring more joy and love to the places it is meant for.

    WONDERFUL post, my friend.

    And I hope you are doing well today!


  9. Great post, JD. I read a book recently by pastor Andy Stanley called “Next Generation Leader,” in which he talks about character. He says that character isn’t essential to being a leader. Think about how many CEOs have run their companies like a terror zone, but were brilliant thinkers in and of themselves. And yet without character (empathy and emotional intelligence and using them in the right way), the leadership is flawed and will eventually crumble. (Think Bernie Madoff). Character sets apart managers from leaders. Sheep from the goats.

  10. JD,

    I’ve always felt a true leader is one who believes in the power of an individual or group, until they are able to see they hold their power.

    It’s like they believe in you, until you can believe it for yourself.

    Once that happens, if they’re truly a great leader, they’ll let you walk your path but they’ll be standing in your shadows to help support you if you need them.


  11. @ Jannie — Thank you.

    Yes, I am well, and I hope you are too.

    You’re right on so much responsibility in being a leader. I think one of the biggest things is the idea of “always on.” If there’s one responsibility that I hear from key leaders that they don’t enjoy, it’s the idea of always having to be “on.” Interestingly, I find when leaders can show their vulnerability that they aren’t always on, they increase their empathy and connection.

    @ Bryan — Thank you. I like the distinction you draw out.

    It reminds me of a question one of my mentors asked me long ago — did I want to be a people leader or a thought leader? He said, of course you can choose both, but do I have a natural preference for one or the other? Character is especially important with people leadership.

    @ Connie — For some reason, I especially like how evocative that phrase is … “standing in your shadow.” It’s like a guardian angel by your side, ready to help you when you stumble, or lift you when you fall.

  12. I loved this point, “Your power as a leader comes from being a good steward of their dreams.”

    I’ve never thought of leadership this way but it’s completely true. People choose you as a leader because they believe you can help them achieve their goals and dreams.

    There is a powerful sense of trust that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It makes sense why once a leader has betrayed this trust, they have a hard time regaining it.

    I’ll be observant of being a better leader myself from now on.


  13. Hi Jd. Nice inquiry into ‘leadership’. Why become a leader? Is it not to recover our original and untroubled nature? Is that not the prime reason for taking control of one’s environment (which is what leadership is about). All of it seems to come back to our spiritual endeavor: to be free so that we may experience our unlimited side. This is the grand reward,and when we understand this, the motivation to lead is an inside job. This is my point of view. blessings

  14. Hi J.D.,

    I’ve become convinced lately that we ought to take turns being leaders. That everyone has something to offer in terms of leadership. It may look like someone is a follower in a organization. Yet, when you dig down more deeply, they’re actually leading too.

    It’s about reclaiming your own power. And like Lance I love the idea of stewardship everywhere. for others, for the planet. it’s such a cool way to see the world. more compassionate. more feeling.

    Am into Gandhi! Will check out the quotes.

    Thanks! G.

  15. @ Bryce — “Who do you follow and why,” can be a very revealing question.

    At the end of the day, I think the people we choose to follow reflect our values and our vision, and we see them as our enabler. I think that’s why competence seems like such a key attribute, when really, it’s compassion and likeability that play big factors too. We want somebody who has our best interest and will trade up for hopes and dreams.

    @ Rob — I like your focus on freedom here. Self-efficacy is a powerful thing.

    Covey always connected freedom in an inspiring way by linking it do discipline. He says it’s his discipline that allows him to run freely versus be a slave to bad habits that wear his body down and bind him.

    Leadership is definitely an inside job, and powerful leaders, always lead themselves first, and flow outward from there.

    @ Giulietta — Great leaders tend to be great followers. Their skill as a leader comes from knowing their own limits, and knowing the strengths and taletns of others. More importantly, the best leaders do a great job of empowering others to use their unique strengths and talents to reach the goals.

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