Blue Line

Features Holding the Line
Infusing trust and inspiration into organizational leadership

December 6, 2023  By Michelle Vincent


One never knows when a true gem of a resource will come their way. Change is something this world seems to be screaming out for, and it can come with a painful lesson. When we see or experience these lessons, they can equate to failure.

If you’ve followed my column at all, you may have come across one that speaks to motivation and inspiration. I have emphasized the importance of language in our communications, both from a workplace perspective and in our relationships. The difference between motivation and inspiration, I have felt, is that motivation occurs outside of our beings and inspiration occurs inside. For example, I am motivated to do well on the job because there is an upcoming promotional process that I want to participate in, thus the potential reward. Inspiration, on the other hand, comes from the passion for a particular cause or desire which fuels our intention/action. One is reward is most often short lived and the other is passion driven and, therefore, longer lasting. One is not better than the other, just different. The question I ask is, would you rather have someone working with/for you who is motivated or inspired? As a leader, would you prefer to lead through motivation, with rewards, or through inspiration, connecting through understanding and empathy with inner passion?

I recently read Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, Trust and Inspire, and in it, Covey makes some interesting remarks on a different way of leading within our policing organizations. It is suggested that, in the past, a command and control way of leading in every aspect of life was the norm, accepted and maybe the only way to ensure safety through our basic needs such as food, shelter and financial resources. Now that most of us in the world today have enough food on the table and help/support is available in some way through the click of a button on our phones or computers, we have evolved, and yet our leadership style may continue to exist in this command and control fashion.

Leadership is an opportunity within each of us in every moment of every day. When we explore how we might be able to shift or add to our current leadership model, the trusting and inspiring may be a worthwhile consideration. Each of us can be so much more when the conditions are curated for us to flourish. Think of that time where you were in a unit as an officer or civilian and your unit commander believed in you and what you were passionate about. You created an operational plan (or organizational plan) to oversee a project that was exciting. You were provided with most, if not all, of the tools you needed to make it successful, and every aspect of your being just shined with the inspiration to make it amazing. You looked forward to work, knowing you were making a difference. So many aspects of this example would be related to the trust and inspire leadership model. They mainly involve seeking to understand with empathy and then to be understood.

What if we shifted from a focus through a lens of accountability to a softer lens of trust and allow?

Now perhaps consider a time when you were told to create an operational plan based on what the unit commander wanted to see in relation to district stats. You were voluntold to form a plan and then told to tweak it more to what the unit is looking for. Your input was not requested, or even considered, and your approach was disregarded as the focus was solely on the criteria your unit commander was looking for. How much time and emotional energy are you likely to put into it and how rich will the data be?

While we would like to think we lead from a trust and inspire perspective, we are likely, in this paramilitary environment especially, leading from a command and control lens, even if enlightened. It’s so easy for us to dismiss this opportunity for change in leadership with statements like, “If we just lead through a trust and inspire model, all would be chaotic. We need to direct our people and hold them accountable for their actions”.

Accountability is a value in some of our organizations. I invite everyone to consider the following: what if we were able to connect with our people in finding their why? What if we listened to understand, rather than to justify? What if we shifted from a focus through a lens of accountability to a softer lens of trust and allow? When we develop trust within our people, relationships and our communities, our goals and intentions are achieved almost immediately, Covey explains.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring this powerful opportunity of healthy culture into our organizations?

Michelle Vincent PhD/MACP is a retired officer and the founder of The Haven, Ontario’s first non-profit, inpatient treatment centre exclusive to first responders and uniform personnel. Contact her at

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