Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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A Golden Opportunity!

Happy Monday! I cannot believe it is already the second week of May! 2023 is flying by! Where are the seconds, minutes, and hours racing off to? This swift passage of time serves as a potent reminder that time waits for no one, as The Rolling Stones lyricized. And it is always a good time to strengthen bonds that enable us to lead fulfilling lives. One such bond is wise trust!

Last week, we explored what empowers one to build trust. In so doing, we zeroed in on the idea that, unlike blind trust, wise trust is based on merit. i.e., Who a person is and what they demonstrate through their actions. Not merely words. Earned and based on merit! – BLOG – www.akesatia.com

Today, it seems the opportunity to distrust is ever looming. Therefore, it is worth figuring out what to do with this unavoidable reality. And to start, it behooves us to acknowledge that we are all fallible. Yes! Even the most noble person with the best intentions can betray and fail another or break a promise. And when this happens, we have a choice: We can define the person by their wrongs, view them as perpetually unreliable and throw away the relationship. It might be worth throwing in the towel. But is that always the case? Or are there situations when it is worth rebuilding the bond of trust?

Better and Stronger!

On an honest day, most of us would readily admit that we have broken the trust of another. And when that happens, it can seem like any prospects of a healthy relationship just went up in smoke!
As Czech novelist and playwright Ivan Klima wrote in his masterpiece, Love and Garbage, To destroy is easier than to create. This is true! However, as evidenced by the lives of many survivors, what is damaged can often be rebuilt – better and stronger.

Suddenly, the prospect of rebuilding sounds exciting! But it is not for the faint of heart, especially when rebuilding trust. Because rebuilding trust requires hope, and hope is not merely wishful thinking. Hope is a confident expectation that drives action.

Undeniably, rebuilding trust takes a lot of work! And you may be thinking: Is it worth it? That is a valid question. But we might benefit from asking a different question: What, if any, is the opportunity in distrust?

The Opportunity in Distrust

Perhaps when you read the question above, your initial thought was: Really?? Distrust and opportunity in the same sentence? You are way out in left field, Aké.
Well, if that’s what you thought, it is understandable. Typically, we do not consider distrust a source of opportunity. But indulge me for just thirty seconds. 😊

Paradoxically, there is a connection between distrust and opportunity: A break in trust fractures relational bonds. The fracture exposes the weak points in the relationship. And this provides the opportunity to strengthen the relationship. It is a golden opportunity!

And what is required to seize this opportunity? A healthy dose of willful vulnerability and care!

Handling Exposure

Few words can shut down a conversation faster than the word: vulnerability. And even fewer actions can strengthen a relationship more than being vulnerable. But what is being vulnerable all about anyway? Vulnerability is the state of being exposed to attack or damage. Vulnerability Definition & Meaning – Merriam-WebsterOur aliveness predisposes us to vulnerability – physical and psychological.

Vulnerability is often accompanied by discomfort, pain, or both. And most do not willfully expose themselves to discomfort or emotional pain. For example, when your teenage daughter’s car suddenly stops running in a random, dark alley at 10 pm, she calls home in tears because she feels vulnerable. She might feel overwhelmed, unsure of what to do, and exposed to the possibility of being harmed. But she probably did not walk into that situation willfully. And she does not want to be in it.

Then in a psychological sphere, vulnerability generally refers to showing emotion and revealing weaknesses despite the awareness or sense that one could be hurt. How to Be More Vulnerable and Authentic | Psychology Today. One might refer to this as willful vulnerability. Willful vulnerability is the courageous choice to allow oneself to be known while being aware of the likelihood of being emotionally hurt. 

Breaking Walls to Strengthen Bonds

Building trust requires willful vulnerability. And being willfully vulnerable is like opening the door to the most cherished room in your home and inviting another in. This courageous gesture allows one to be seen and known. And it enables trust to grow.

On the other hand, invulnerability is akin to a person armoring their home like a fortress and shielding themselves within. To reach them, one must break down the walls. Not only is this task arduous, but it is also intrusive. And many would rather not intrude.

However, walls are in place for protection. Therefore, why would one break them down?

The Gift of Vulnerability

Last week, I shared a vulnerable experience. On my recent sabbatical, when visiting a small town, I learned that kidnappers were present and active. Also, I was a target and needed to be very careful. Upon hearing the news, I felt exposed to harm – physically and emotionally. And I realized that surviving would require me to be vulnerable, i.e., Allowing others to guide me physically and expressing my emotions, especially my fears. Amazingly, being willfully vulnerable enabled me to receive the support and love of others. And it kept me physically safe.

Being vulnerable allows others to support us. And receiving support enables us to build and rebuild trust.

Seizing the Opportunity

Irrefutably, seizing the opportunity to rebuild trust is valuable personally and professionally. Also, it is vital in leadership! But given the pomp and pageantry often associated with leaders today, one might not think so. During my sabbatical, as I engaged with luminaries, I gained keen insights that broadened my perspective on leadership. And I look forward to sharing with you next!

In anticipation, I leave you with a question I deliberated: Is your leadership style more akin to that of an emperor or a steward? 

Until next time!

For you and to you,



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