What are the new skills leaders can use to build trust, energize their teams—and discover their own blind spots? The WorkLab podcast took those big questions to Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill , whose exhaustive research and interviews with global executives give her deep insight into leadership development. 

Hill, who also chairs Harvard Business School’s Leadership Initiative, offers practical advice for managing when the economy feels uncertain, or for navigating “in a fog,” when people want reassurance that leaders are present and understanding. (As Hill says, “We always need to be asking ourselves, ‘How do people experience me? How do they experience themselves when they’re with me?’”) Three other big takeaways from this conversation: 

  1. Trust has two dimensions: competence and character, Hill says. “Too often, we spend all of our time trying to give people evidence of our competence: ‘I know what the right thing to do is,’” she says. But especially when times feel uncertain and leaders don’t have all the answers, “then that character piece becomes more important.” To show what you stand for, “you need to be able to talk to people more about the why , not just what we’re doing or how we do it, but why are we doing it? We often move too quickly past that.” 

  2. Leaders should audit how they’re spending their time and make sure they develop “horizontal relationships” across the organization, Hill says. Asked to define leadership, “most people immediately think about the people who report to them,” she says. “They would look down. It turns out in today’s world, you’ve got to look up and out as much as you have to look down.” Without building those relationships across the org chart and engaging with people who have diverse points of view, Hill says, “you won’t be working on what’s really most important to the organization.”

  3. To energize employees, ask about their dreams, Hill says. When businesses—and people—feel under pressure, they tend to focus on what needs to get done. Don’t forget to ask people about their goals, even if they’re longer-term. “I think most of us will work for our dreams,” Hill says. “We’re energized by them.”

Also in this episode: Michael Dent , senior director of leadership development at Microsoft, outlines the three principles that guide the company’s approach to helping leaders grow.

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or positions.

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Here’s a transcript of the Episode 6 conversation.

ELISE HU: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Elise Hu. On WorkLab we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work—economists, technologists, researchers. They all share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work. 

LINDA HILL: Leadership is about managing yourself, managing your network, and managing your team. Now, if I were to ask most people to define for me what is leadership, what is management, they would immediately think about the people who report to them. They would look down. It turns out in today’s world, you’ve got to look up and out.