Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

Part 3 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

The late motivational speaker Stephen Covey once said, “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” For those of us in positions of leadership, gaining the trust of our people is a fundamental component of a healthy workplace environment. When managers establish this type of confidence, emotional security and job satisfaction can increase exponentially. Trust is the foundation of effective leadership, and it isn’t developed overnight. It comes through conscious behavior consistently exhibited.

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6 Elements of a Good Strategy to Build Trust in Your Leadership

So, how will your people come to trust your leadership? Here are six observations based on my experiences:

No. 6: When You Say You’ll Do Something, Do It

Fulfilling a commitment shows you keep your word. Unless there’s a compelling reason to withdraw from or alter the terms of a commitment, follow through.

No. 5: Let Your People Know It’s OK to Make Mistakes

It’s inevitable. Everyone messes up. A reasonable allowance for mistakes conveys good faith. Teach employees to pick themselves up after a small error, and show them how to pivot after a big one.

No. 4: Have the Collective Back of Your People

When engaging with other parts of your organization, and especially with higher-ups, avoid the temptation to throw anyone under the bus. Furthermore, accept praise as part of a team, and be personally accountable when things go wrong.

Two professionals shaking hands.

No. 3: Be Honest – Tactfully

It’s important to be honest. Don’t sugarcoat your communication – even when it’s bad news. Tactful language is the gold standard, but operate under the assumption that your people are capable of handling the truth. It shows you respect them.

No. 2: Be Compassionate

It’s vital to remember that we’re all human. A compassionate leader is not a weak leader, simply someone who recognizes the importance of relating with the heart and not just the head. Compassionate leaders are genuine and understand what’s going on.

No. 1: Embrace Honest Communication

Your people should be able to offer candid feedback without fear of repercussion. Allowing employees to speak freely fosters trust, and they’ll know you value their contribution.

It’s a leader’s responsibility to build trust. So, as Covey suggests, aim to keep your trust account high. Trust promotes efficiency, and it has a ripple effect on the overall company culture. It also radiates outward and is sensed by the customers you serve.

As a leader, set the tone by exhibiting the trust your people deserve. It pays dividends. Trust promotes sky-high levels of performance and workplace harmony.

Learning how to build trust is key to a manager’s professional development, and it’s the essence of people management. USF’s corporate training and professional education affirms the importance of trust in the workplace.

To learn more about USF’s dedication to professional development and advancing careers, explore the university’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education. Visit the CTPE website or contact us.Learn More

Mark Koulianos is director of USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education and a 20-plus-year veteran of the corporate world. Read Koulianos’ full bio.