One of the regular joys of my week is watching students take the stage to speak or perform during our Chapel and Upper School Announcements meetings. Like any live performance, these moments are high-wire acts, in which the audience and performer are bound together by the performer’s courage to step out into the unknown, risking a little pride to test their skills and conquer their fears.
The courage our students regularly show in speaking and performing for their peers says a lot about the community of trust built at Episcopal over the decades. Seen from a leadership perspective, the presence of strong trust in an organization is essential to its health and growth.
In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identifies an “absence of trust” as the root cause of all other organizational dysfunctions, leading to fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and, eventually, to an inattention to results. In a school setting, one could say that a fundamental absence of trust could lead to an absence of learning. On the flip-side, well-developed trust within an organization can lead to tremendous functionality, and meaningful and sustaining relationships for its members. This close link between trusting relationships and tremendous results is what I see every day at Episcopal.
vulnerability-based trust...is when team members trust the intentions of each other enough that they are willing to expose their own vulnerabilities because they are confident their exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against them.
In particular, our students demonstrate a willingness to embrace “powerful vulnerability” in ways that resonate with Lencioni’s analysis. Another writer who has elaborated on Lencioni’s particular focus on the power of trust and vulnerability is Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s former mindfulness guru. According to Tan, “vulnerability-based trust...is when team members trust the intentions of each other enough that they are willing to expose their own vulnerabilities because they are confident their exposed vulnerabilities will not be used against them.” What better description could be given of the students who put themselves forward in the Episcopal community every day, and for the students and faculty who validate their efforts with applause and good-faith dialogue in and outside of class?