Why Trust is the Foundation of all Leadership

Trust is the most important quality in any relationship. When two people are in a relationship and trust each other then the relationship is strong. However, as soon as trust is violated the relationship will fragment and will be torn apart. Trust is the superglue that holds people together. The greater the degree of trust the stronger the glue.


If you are a leader, you cannot break trust and still continue to influence people.  Hence, trust is the foundation of all types of leadership. It takes a lot of effort to build trust. However, it can disappear in an instant. As a leader, when people lose trust in you then your ability to lead will erode very quickly. When people in an organisation lose trust in the leader then inevitably the leader has to go. The board of directors will give the leader the sack and appoint a new leader.


Even when a leader makes the right decision such as firing a person, if it is not done right then people will not trust the leader. In leading you cannot take shortcuts. Leaders that make good decisions build trust. When you make a mistake, as soon as you realise it and own up. You can still regain trust. Be human. Your followers always know when you make a mistake. Apologies genuinely. Once your followers have forgiven your mistake then tread carefully. You only have a certain number of chances. You can’t take shortcuts no matter how long you’ve been the leader.


Consistent in their behaviour, competence and character build trust. When you make more and more good decisions you build up credibility.  Your people can forgive a massive mistake if you are genuine. People will tolerate honest mistakes, however, they will not forgive you if you break their trust. It’s very difficult to repair relationship and regain confidence. Trust is a very valuable asset, protect it as if your life depends on it. You can fool your boss, but you can never fool your followers. Good character and leadership are twins in successful relations. Great character makes the leader better in the long run. If you have bad character the longer the trip the worst it gets.


Good character reveals many things

  • Leaders with good character have an inner strength that you can count on.  They are consistent. Character makes trust possible and trust makes leadership possible. Never make a commitment if you can’t honour it. Always fulfil your promises.
  • If you have poor character, it’s only a matter of time before it blows up and undermines your ability to perform as a leader. Poor character makes a leader unreliable and therefore not trustworthy. When your character is strong, people have confidence in you and your ability to lead. This gives people belief in themselves and their future. Talent is not enough; it must be fused with good character. Character determines the limit to your success.
  • Good character commands the respect of everyone in society. Without character you can’t earn respect. Leaders put others interest ahead of their own. You have to make good decisions, admit your mistakes and failures and put the best interests of your people and the organisation ahead of your self interests. You character builds trust amongst your followers. If you break their trust then you will not be able to lead.


Trust action steps

Answer the following questions as honestly as possible:

  • How would your followers rate your trustworthiness? Are they as eager to share the mistakes and failures as their successes?
  •  How do your bosses and peers rate your trustworthiness? How do you measure their level of trustworthiness?
  • Most people spend their time developing their knowledge and skills and few spend time on building character. What are you going to do to develop your character?
  • If you have broken trust with people in the past, then your leadership will suffer until you make things right. Apologise to people you have hurt. Commit to working at re-earning their trust. It may take a long time depending on the degree of violation. What steps are you going to take to make amends?

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Posted by ypsociety