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Chapter 14: Apply the Trust-Earning Model

All models are wrong, but good models are useful anyway; the most useful models inform important decisions. What about our trust-earning model?

Almost every indie consultant I have encountered can make use of some form of service to earn trust. It's what's most natural to most of us because we tend to think of ourselves as intentional craftspeople and accidental businesspeople. Service is what we do.

Not all of us, however, are willing to take on the emotional labor involved in the social styles, and some don't have the stomach for the risk of the leadership styles. The following specialization approaches tend to require  that you use a leadership style to earn sufficient trust.

Big missions : A colleague of mine, Jonathan Stark, is on a mission to rid the world of hourly billing. This is not a small task, and it is not short-term work. Jonathan will never complete this mission, and I think he knows that and is fine with a mission that is what James Carse would call an infinite game.

Sweeping transformation : A client is working to raise the bar for how the entire market of NetSuite agencies operates, including everything from positioning to pricing to operations. He is trying to effect a somewhat broad, sweeping transformation.

Focused transformation : Another client of mine is working to help the medical device industry adopt modern software development practices. This is a transformation, but somewhat more focused than an across-the-board bar-raising.


1: Inspirational talks, manifestos, that kind of thing.

So if you want to use your specialization to steer or transform an industry, either in a sweeping or more focused way, you'll need to be willing to embrace the risk, learning curve, and hard work of leadership. Or, you'll need to be naturally good at using the tools  of leadership [41]  and willing to practice their use over time in service of the impact you seek.

If your ambitions are smaller and you're using specialization not to change the world but to gain modest leverage in earning more visibility and trust for your business, you'll certainly be able to use some form of social or service trust-earning to achieve your goals. You won't be held back even if you are sure you can't make use of the leadership tools. You won't need them.

Uses for the Trust-Earning Model

Our model for trust-earning is one that has two uses. It tells us that if you want to steer or transform a market, you'd better get good at the leadership styles of trust-earning. It also informs your journey; your growth as an entrepreneurial expert.

While, again, our model is not a map showing a linear progression, it does suggest possibilities for growth. I hope it invites your mind to explore ways you might use the higher market power of leadership in service of greater positive impact on your market.