People ‘Believe’ in You: as a Weatherman or Santaclaus?

July 20, 2020 Open Leadership No Comments

A weatherman plays with statistics.  Santaclaus works with toys and children’s souls.

When people notice that you act differently than you say, they don’t ‘believe’ you anymore. I use quotes because ‘believe’ is a term with two meanings that are very different from each other, which may often lead to misunderstandings. The first meaning of believe lies in the following sentence: “I believe it will rain tomorrow.” In this case one may speak about a conceptual belief. It is about concepts. The concepts in the example are <tomorrow> and <rain>. The second meaning of believe is about a non-conceptual belief, a religious belief for example. This is not about concepts. Not for a (real) believer it isn’t. For example, when an atheist sees this religious belief as a conceptual faith, there is a misunderstanding. A major additional problem is that even most believers perceive and experience their religion as such. This leads to many unfortunate situations that we all know well.

Santaclaus is not a weatherman

The two meanings of the term believe are very different in the extreme, but sometimes they also touch each other. You can notice this, for example, in the sentences: “I believe you can do that” and “I believe in you.” In both, the two meanings of ‘believe’ touch each other because they are actually both present at the same time. That’s OK, of course. You may already feel that ‘believing in a leader’ also carries these two meanings within. This is very important to any leader. ‘People who believe in you (or just don’t)’ is about much more than a dry statistical statement about the extent to which you are also doing what you say. In fact, it is primarily a ‘non-conceptual belief.’ It’s about an action with a profound influence on motivation.

A tip for leadership: be attentive to the significance of the two meanings of believe. You thus open the door to a great source of motivation among your employees.


Belief works miracles, or at least it makes wonderful people. Somehow people are very sensitive to the phenomenon of being believed. It has a near approach to existence. If no one believes in person X, it is as if he doesn’t exist. Then he also struggles to believe in himself. Probably the latter is the determining factor. Likewise: if no one believes in a certain quality of person X, he himself will also struggle to believe in it. Then this belief is very decisive for existence itself and also for the development of that quality. This phenomenon is also found in children and their qualities at school. It is called the Pygmalion effect. Pygmalion was a sculptor from Greek mythology. He had made a stone woman and he wanted to bring her to life. His wish was so great that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, eventually transformed his statue into a living woman. Important in this story is the becoming alive. Notice the similarity with, for example, the phrase: “Does your leadership live with your employees?”

A tip for leadership: believing makes life and vice versa. Use this idea to develop your employees’ qualities.

‘Believing in’ is a realizer. It brings something to life. A leader’s faith in his associates has an additional meaning. After all, there is an overlap between leader and group. On a symbolic level, you simply are the group you lead. This has all sorts of consequences. Among other things: in some way, your belief in person X is already the faith of that person in himself. The same goes for any disbelief. This is not the end of everything, but it is very powerful.

The same goes for your employees’ faith in you and in your leadership. Whether you experience this on a conscious level or not, it shapes you and it shapes every employee once again. Their belief in your abilities is the belief in the possibilities of the group. This is the belief of each individual employee in the ability to contribute to a group that realizes something.

People want to believe in a leader. This desire is so great that they want to turn a blind eye to his real abilities. It’s also in the terms, of course. Namely: ‘believing’ is not the same as ‘knowing.’ Wanting to believe doesn’t mean that you also want to know. In many cases, the first can even be encouraged by weakening the second one. This can be taken advantage of. Not that I would recommend it. On the contrary, I would strongly advise against it. But it is possible and that means that in this respect your type of leadership is also to a large extent a moral choice. Can you think of some examples yourself?

A tip for leadership: pay close attention to the faith that your employees have in you. Make it a concrete action point and give it your highest priority.

Finally, another moral choice. It may seem in the group’s interest to use the power of faith, even if it leads to little white lies, or to the concealing of truth. Does the end justify the means? In many cases, the opposite is true.

What you can do:

Practice on the two forms of ‘believing in yourself.’ Try to understand as much as possible the distinction between these two forms, especially in terms of motivation. Try to achieve something in this area today, as deep and as efficiently as possible.

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