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What every leader can learn from “The King’s Speech”

3 min read


This guest post is by Dennis S. Reina and Michelle L. Reina, co-authors of “Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace” and “Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace.” They are co-founders of the Reina Trust Building Institute.

In the movie “The King’s Speech,” England’s King George VI turns to Lionel Logue, an unorthodox Australian speech therapist, to overcome his stammer. The two men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the British throne, the reluctant king relies on Logue to help him make a radio broadcast at the beginning of World War II.

We also see the movie as a parable — a story about a leader healing from the wounds of broken trust. King George VI had to heal from childhood betrayal before he could “find his voice” and become the leader his country needed at the brink of war. The king, however, found it extremely hard to ask for — and accept — support that he, as that would-be leader, needed.

If you’re like most leaders, you, too, struggle with asking for, and accepting, support — support you might need to perform, such as King George VI, to your most powerful potential. You probably think you should be able to go it alone, to have all of the answers. Yet, in failing to receive support, odds are you are depriving yourself — and your organization — of your true greatness. Accepting support isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of courage and strength. Only strong, self-aware leaders can size up a situation and see, realistically, what they can or cannot face alone.

In our work with leaders, we find that there are at least three common, instinctive reactions to the idea of receiving support. Our advice and insight for how to deal with them:

“I’m the leader here. I can’t let on that I need help.”

Sure, you can. People expect you to lead, and if accepting support from others will help you be an even better leader, it’s your best course of action. What’s more, by example, you’re letting your leadership team, among others, know that it’s OK to receive support, embrace their human-ness and to learn and grow through and with other people. That awareness can deepen their connection and commitment to one another and to the organization. It also builds trust and respect.

“I don’t know whom I can trust. I don’t want to open myself up to be vulnerable.”

Make a wise choice — and take the risk. Playing it close to the vest might be your default, but that doesn’t mean it’s the smartest thing to do. Also, ask yourself whether you’re really concerned about trust or, more likely, about letting others in. During highly stressful periods, you might unreasonably question everyone’s intentions. Resist those doubts and fears. They can — and will — hold you back.

“I want to be the best leader I can be for my organization. That has nothing to do with my personal life.”

Really? You’re a whole person, and your success comes from the sum of your experiences. Additionally, as a leader, your ability to build and rebuild trust with others has a lot to do with how you’ve dealt with — or haven’t dealt with — situations of broken trust in your life. If you don’t want to “go there” with someone within your organization, look for someone on the outside — your Lionel Logue.

Image credit: Laurie Sparham, The Weinstein Co.