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Book Review: ‘Breaking the Trust Barrier’ by JV Venable

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Book CoverJV Venable has added author to his list of accomplishments with his new book, “Breaking the Trust Barrier: How Leaders Close the Gap for High Performance. One of his most gratifying career accomplishments, according to his book, is when he was the commander and demonstration leader of the United States Air Force (USAF) Thunderbirds.

His passion for flying began when he was four years old “while standing on the roof of our home in Fairfield, Alabama.” Venable saw the pilots waving at him from three Kingfisher biplanes that flew over his house. By the ripe old age of nine, he knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot and that he wanted to lead the Thunderbirds.

After going to college, he flew F-16s all over the world. Just when he could apply for the Thunderbirds, he was diagnosed with cancer. He was told he’d never fly again. He won his battle with cancer and eventually became a part of the Thunderbird team.

Venable found that the Thunderbirds had a terrible history of turnover and they had to train a new team with every demonstration season. His book is about sharing the steps to generating the level of trust needed to build the Thunderbird teams. He writes that all of the stories in the book are true with some of the names changed.

Venable introduces many new theories and lots of new terms such as drafting “whereby two objects moving closer together sustain a faster speed than either object could achieve on its own.” He also introduces readers to a list of gaps such as the traction gap.

A gap is, according to the author, “Physical or emotional distance caused by a lack of competence, a lack of confidence or an unmet social need that degrades performance.” The other gaps he writes about include engagement, passion, confidence, respect, integrity, principle, and empowerment gaps. Closing the gaps is one of the main focuses of the book.

His writing style is easy to read and understand. Venable brings all of the leadership ideas to life by relating them to his experiences flying with the Thunderbirds. He also does a good job of putting all of them into one workable, takeaway package.

One of my favorite sections is about the five pillars of life. He says everyone, everywhere has five pillars that drive their actions and support their well-being. The pillars are faith, family, friends, health, and work. Becoming aware of the pillars is what Venable writes will help a leader grow the character and the cohesion of any team.

He writes, “Many team leaders make work the central pillar of their lives – and they expect the team behind them to have that same priority. Those who do will elevate an occupation to a high art, and we had more than our fair share of those folks on the Thunderbirds.”

This book comes from an author who has firsthand experience at being a leader and helping others become leaders. If you have read any of my book reviews over the years, I really like books that are written from experience versus from teaching or from think tanks.

Experience counts for so much especially when it comes to leading a team. Venable puts a different spin on his practice of leadership. His book provides many usable practices for new leaders and many reminders for experienced leaders.

Leading is not about the leader. One of the main ideas behind leading is to bring a group of individuals together to achieve a common goal while at the same time making sure that each individual feels he or she has contributed as much as everyone else. Venable’s book has plenty of tips and suggestions on how to make that happen.

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