One of the most powerful aspects of effective leadership is placing trust in one’s team—relinquishing control and empowering employees to address challenges, make decisions and take ownership. In this latest installment from my Umbrella Collection stories, I share learnings from Conviction, which is based on the true story about a man who led a unique group of employees who happened to be former convicts. It’s an inspiring tale that shows the impact that trust has on individuals and how they view their role within a company.

In Conviction, we learn the story of Buck, the story’s central character, and his leadership philosophy. In trusting his employees—who were all ex-convicts—he enabled them to elevate their performance beyond all expectations and in turn, he earned their trust, respect and loyalty.  

The man who inspired this story had recently retired from corporate America to buy a convenience store and in short order, discovered that most of his employees were either coming from or going to prison. Rather than distrusting these employees, he openly showed them he believed in them, allowing them to run the business and handle the cash. He was rewarded with their unwavering dedication. Feel free to  reach out if you have feedback or would like us to add any colleagues to our mailing list.

A leader should not do an employee’s job, but must do his or her job: guiding, counseling and trusting. As leaders, it can be difficult to not intervene when something isn’t done the way that we would do it. We have our own vision and when that’s not realized, the easiest response is to step in and fix it ourselves. But that can demotivate teams and damage morale. In Buck’s case, the fact that he supported his team’s decision-making made all the difference. He stood out as one of the few people in their lives who respected them.  

A great employee acts like the owner. When trust exists within a company, employees are more likely to act like owners, taking greater care and responsibility. They’ll have the courage to step up because they know leadership supports them. And when obstacles or challenges get in their way, they’re empowered to find solutions that work. In Buck’s real-life situation, an employee’s son stole money from the cash register. The employee found out, apologized and returned the money, much of it out of her own pocket.  

A great leader seeks out unique ideas and embraces differences. The best leaders maintain an open mind, knowing the next great idea can come from anywhere. It expands their perspective and creates an inclusive environment where employees feel empowered to make an impact. When I visited Buck’s store, I was moved by the respect he showed the employees. Buck was a highly educated, former Fortune 500 executive, yet when his employees spoke, he was silent, listening intently and never interrupting or correcting them. They were different from him, but they felt equal. 

Please Answer One Short Question

Do you believe trust is key to inspiring and leading successful teams? 


Barry LaBov is founder and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training. He is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year recipient and author of numerous business books, including the upcoming book The Power of Differentiation. Since 1981, LABOV has differentiated and launched products and brands around the world.