Trust: The Foundation of Leadership

Foundation of Trust

According to their wonderful book “The Leadership Challenge,” leadership research experts Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner state that “credibility (or Trust) is the foundation of leadership.”

The research simply confirms what we have all experienced in our lives.

Understanding Trust

Without trust, you can’t lead and you won’t follow!

We’ve all heard that old saying, “people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.” And if you’re a good leader, you understand that without trust, you have nothing.

The depth of each relationship is directly equal to the amount of trust that is in that relationship. Trust is the basis of ALL relationships, and as a leader you must understand this in order to be effective.

I’ve made a few observations about trust in leadership that I’d like to share with you. I think you’ll find these to be true in your situation as well. How many times have you been a part of an organization and just wished that the leader(s) would trust one another so you could move forward?

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it all too often which is what led me to jot down the following:

  •  Trust is a Two-Way Street

In order to be trusted, you must trust those you lead. At it’s foundation, trust is simply believing in someone else’s abilities and empowering them to fly.

Too many times, leadership becomes more about control than about empowerment of those we are leading. That shift in your focus as a leader can become the first step to the destruction of trust, and the organization/church/ business.

Trust is a two way street and good leaders trust their followers’ abilities and empower them to lead instead of holding them back by micromanaging them.

  •  Trust is Mission Focused, not Self-Seeking

We all want our organizations, churches and businesses to be successful. However, if you care more about who gets the credit for the success of the organization than you do about the mission of the organization, there is a trust problem.

When our focus is on who gets the credit, then we will inevitably become distrustful of others in the organization. We will constantly be paranoid that they will “outshine” us and steal our glory. The fact is that all the glory must go first of all to God who allows us to do anything that we do.

Then we must give proper credit to those who excel in their respective roles in accomplishing the overall mission. Good leaders defer credit and accept blame.

  • Trust is All About Teamwork

As the leader, we are responsible for creating the environment of trust in our organization. If we want to be trusted, then we must trust our team! Our team will do as we do, not as we say.

We can talk about teamwork and trust all we want, but if at the end of the day we do not trust our followers and believe in their abilities to make the team better then they will never trust us to lead them anywhere.

What are some things you’ve observed about trust in your organization? How much do you trust your team? How much do you think they trust you? Have you ever had an open discussion about trust in your organization?


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Keith Glover
Keith Glover
 is Head Coach at Pastor2Pastors
He helps Pastors & Ministry Leaders take care of themselves to better serve others
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9 responses to “Trust: The Foundation of Leadership

  1. Great comment. I agree with everything you mentioned about Trust. And I have seen versions of this for many years. However, I respectfully believe that these dialogues regarding trust do not go deep enough to be effective… to be functional. In other words how do I does Trust in and of itself improve the organization. My opinion is that Trust is mostly a “dependent” variable and it gets talked about as if it was an “independent” variable. Trust is primarily the result of or dependent on performance. It is our performance that creates or distroys Trust. As leaders we must perform consistently at a high level to be trusted and although we must intitially extend trust to others to create a positive environement, this must be in the context of helping others to perform at consistently high levels so that Trust becomes the perpetual energy of the organization. So in my opinion, a more functional approach to this very real Trust issue is to focus on consistent, high level performance and Trust will be the natural outcome. Think about it 🙂 Thanks


  2. Brian, Thanks for your comment. I see your point and I agree that “it is our performance that creates or destroys trust”. You can spend a lifetime building up trust in an organization or relationship as a leader and destroy trust in a split second.

    Thanks so much for adding to the conversation in a way that connects our consistency of action to the level of trust we experience. It draws my attention to the book of James where we are admonished to not only be “hearers of the word, but doers of the word.” Our actions do determine our trustworthiness, and once our actions line up with what we say we believe and place value upon…trust is the natural outcome.
    Good point!!!



  3. This is an amazingly refreshing and inspiring post. How can aspiring leaders, such as baby boomer entrepreneurs, inspire the trust they need to move successfully into the marketplace? Who do they have to trust to inspire them to do the right things? This post triggers great questions.


  4. Shallie, Thanks for your comments. I am glad you found value in the post! As for your questions, I think you bring up an incredible important variable in leadership trust that points to some distinct generational differences.

    I spoke last year to a local Chamber of Commerce Leadership group on the topic of “Bridging the Gap between generational leaders. One of the greatest books I read while researching for this presentation was Jimmy Long’s “Leadership Jump I highly recommend this book to see how baby boomers inspire trust and how they can form valuable relationships with older leaders in their field to mentor them.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read this post and comment.


  5. I have conducted three studies on trust in the last six years. One was for an international IT firm at their 6th largest client. Another was a study I oversaw at a small local client in South, GA. Another was at a private college. While the levels of trust varied from study to study, the results were consistent and support the conlusions in this article.

    Another powerful area of interest that builds and supports trust is open, honest, bidirectional communication. The three studies above all found that when managers facilitate this type of communication, trust is facilitated 3 levels up and leads to the highest levels of Job satisfaction, satisfaction with workload, satisfaction with training and development and even satisfaction with pay.

    These variables also lead to higher levels of willingness of an individual to stay with a company when offered a job with similar pay, a greater willingness to share innovations and better work relationships among various departments.


  6. Trust and Truth derive from the same word. You develop trust by truthing, i.e. Doing what you say and being authentic.

    The single greatest destroyer of trust in organisations is the individual contractual bonus because it shows that the employer does not trust the employee to do a good job unless they are bribed to do so. It also divides employees, creates blame and prevents learning.

    Trust or bonus? Choose wisely!


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