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Establishing Trust: The Key to Effective Leadership

Photo Credit: Rawpixel, This article originally appeared at One Idea Away

If you do a bit of reflecting on your life, you’ll probably easily be able to identify at least a few people whom you deeply trust and a few others whom you actively distrust.

More than likely, those you trust are the ones who are closest to you: your best friends, your significant other, and (hopefully) many of your family members. Those you don’t trust, you probably keep at arm’s length or attempt to cut out of your life completely.

Trust works in a similar way in our business relationships, and is a key foundation for effective leadership.

The reasons you trust your best friends (they don’t betray confidences, they don’t belittle you, they’re there when you need them) are the same reasons your employees will trust you.

On the flip side, the reasons you don’t trust others in your life (they’re flaky, they lie, they have hidden and/or selfish motives) are the same reasons that can erode trust in your organization.

So how do you build trust as a leader to make sure your team members view you in the same manner as you view your trusted inner circle? Here are some tips:

Ways to Build Trust

Genuine Curiosity

When was the last time you asked one of your employees something—and really wanted to hear their answer?

Whether it’s asking their opinion in a board meeting or just inquiring about their kid’s first day of school, it’s important as a leader to display genuine curiosity about those who work for you. No one wants to work for a boss who sees them as ‘just a number’ - and believe me - your employees can see through any faked interest you throw their way!

Being genuinely curious about them not only builds trust, but it also helps you get to know them better and identify new and better ways they can help you succeed!

Genuine Caring

‘Genuine’ is clearly an important word when it comes to building trust! Not only should you be curious about your team, but you also need to care and show it in genuine ways.

Learn what types of bonus structures are of more interest them, send them flowers when they have a baby or lose a loved one, show compassion when they’re going through a tough time. These things add up and your employees will reward your efforts with harder work and increased loyalty.

Candid Feedback

You might like your girlfriend who says, “You look GREAT!” in even the most hideous of outfits… but do you trust her? Probably not. Candid feedback is an important part of trust and your employees need to know that their work and opinions will be honestly (but fairly) critiqued by you.

Lying, sugarcoating, or avoiding conflict are all ways to erode trust even if you think you’re doing ‘the nice thing’.

Personal Accountability

Do you have an acquaintance who’s always flaking on lunch dates and then makes up stories that are difficult to believe? There’s a reason this acquaintance has never moved up to the ‘friend’ level - you don’t trust him!

The same holds true for you as a leader. When you screw up, you have to own up to it. Your team doesn’t want you to be the super-leader who never makes a mistake. They want to follow someone who may have flaws, but who always admits them and tries to be better. This builds trust and it also encourages personal accountability in them.

Finding ways to build trust as a leader is sometimes as simple as taking a closer look at your own personal relationships. When you utilize similar tactics, you can deepen the relationship you have with your team members, and provide them a role model they can like, trust, and be proud to follow.


Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies, Trish Cody has coached and consulted with senior level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Practitioner, Trish works with senior level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness and create more trust, loyalty and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at

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