Fraser Pajak - Trust Based Leadership

Leadership as a topic has been written about and discussed ad nauseam, yet good leadership remains elusive for so many organizations and teams. How can the subject of such exhaustive research and discussion continue to be the glaring root cause of business failures, mission-killing morale problems, and weak vision at the top of otherwise strong organizations? Perhaps it’s because talking about optimal leadership will never replace the disciplined practice of good leadership. That’s why for today’s episode on leadership, I wanted to talk to someone who has actually walked the walk of trust based leadership to peel back the layers on what works, and what doesn’t. It didn’t take me long to think of who that would be.

All of us can think back to those leaders we have both respected and admired. One of those people for me is Fraser Pajak, a business veteran who has spent most of his career serving in leadership positions in the ICT industry, at one point having responsibility for 1,275 employees and a $133 million budget while running coast-to-coast operations and networks for the second largest telecom carrier in Canada. Fraser later served as chairman and CEO of a global quality benchmarking and standards organization, leading paid staff and volunteer teams across the Americas, APAC, and EMEA regions in responding to the rapid technology changes that have now become the norm for today’s quickly evolving telecom industry.

In this wide ranging interview full of real-world war stories and practical advice, Fraser and I discuss his pragmatic tips, lessons learned, and workable strategies for leading teams through organizational changes, power struggles, culture shifts, and other challenging circumstances.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why gaining trust is more important than having the answers (and how to earn that trust to begin with)

  • The importance of leadership as a learned discipline

  • How to use anger appropriately (the distinctly Canadian way)

  • Dealing with negative players on a team

  • Stepping into a new leadership role within an existing organization

  • Backing your people

  • The importance of “the inevitable test” and standing your ground

  • Understanding what truly motivates people (and what doesn’t)

  • Articulating a vision for “the galvanizing goal”

  • Managing change

  • Tips for leaders in hiring right, and getting hired

  • The proper perspective of mentorship

  • The unseen aspects of adventurous living (bonus topic!)

I hope you enjoy this show as we talk to Fraser about the purpose in the process of trust based leadership.

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Links and More Information on this Topic:


Fraser Pajak is the former CEO and board chairman of QuEST Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of products and services delivered to customers of information and communication technologies (ICT). Fraser has over 30 years’ experience in the ICT industry, having served as VP of National Service Infrastructure Support for TELUS Communications where he directed a team of over 1,200 of the most highly skilled technical people in Canada. Fraser’s team took care of incident management, escalation, resolution, root cause analysis, change management and service performance for the wireline, wireless, internet and TV networks and data centers across Canada. In his spare time Fraser likes spending time with his wife Maggie and their four children as well as flying his airplane, snowboarding and waterskiing. Fraser is an investor and active partner in the Vancouver based 33 acres brewing company, voted best brewery in B.C. for 2018.

Canadian olympic coach and business school professor Dr. Peter Jensen wrote the book The Inside Edge: High Performance Through Mental Fitness, recommended by Fraser in learning to use anger productively and in a controlled manner. Here’s also a link to Dr. Jensen’s website covering a variety of topics in sports psychology and more.

Some other tools mentioned that you might want to consider for your leadership toolbox:

  • Fraser alluded to Theory X and Theory Y - here’s what he was talking about that we didn’t have time to delve into further.

  • Here’s a good summary of Herzberg’s 2 factor theory of motivation from

  • An explanation of the Hawthorne effect (the impact of observation).

  • The ITIL change management process

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
— If, by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)