Heineken's CEO Says Building Trust Starts With Being Vulnerable

Four years ago, Dolf van den Brink came to the United States at the age of 36 to become the chief executive of Heineken USA.

Van den Brink had been with the company since graduating college and dealt with several leadership challenges along the way. The toughest challenge, he tells Adam Bryant at The New York Times, was getting people to trust him despite his young age.

“One of the key things I learned the hard way is that the number one thing that generates trust is vulnerability, and vulnerability starts with the boss,” said Van den Brink.

The young CEO tells Bryant that after hiring a coach to interview all of his direct reports, it became clear that his behaviour was causing friction among his staff. “I was way too direct on the challenges without acknowledging what was working well,” he said. “You need to acknowledge them and call them out before you zoom in on the challenges.”

Although he thinks that all successful people have some ego, Van den Brink advises leaders to keep their ego under control.

“If you are high ego, you don’t show vulnerability,” he said. “If you don’t show vulnerability, how are you going to contribute to the trust that we’re trying to establish in this team?”

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