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Leading At The Speed of Trust

In my experience working with organizations as a consultant, coach and workshop leader, I frequently encounter leaders who want to improve communication on their team. Time and again, the core of their inquiries revolves around one crucial component: trust. Here are typical questions I'm presented with:

How do I inspire others to follow my lead?

How do I have honest communication with my team?

What can foster accountability among my team members?

How do I ensure my voice is heard and respected?

How can I recruit and retain committed employees?

What strategies will encourage my team to engage in healthy debate?

At the heart of each of these pressing issues lies the bedrock of trust. One of the formidable challenges in today's leadership landscape is the erosion of trust. From cultural norms to institutional foundations, trust is experiencing a palpable downturn. Compelling research indicates that a mere 49% of employees trust their senior management, and only 28% view CEOs as credible—hardly a firm foundation for any relationship.

In my work, I emphasize that trust is the preliminary step to improving communication. Vulnerability and accountability form the scaffolding for trust-building—whether that's moving past a mistake or fostering a collaborative rather than competitive team environment.

And when it comes to cultivating leaders who aren't afraid to question and challenge, it requires nurturing a space where trust can thrive, characterized by attentive listening, open sharing, and constructive rules of engagement.

Consider the words of Stephen Covey, "Trust is intangible, ethereal, unquantifiable. If it remains that way, then people don't know how to get their arms around it or how to improve it. But the fact is, the costs of low trust are very real, they are quantifiable, and they are staggering."

This truth resounds in the corporate sphere; a study by Watson Wyatt vividly illustrated that companies rich in trust outperform their low-trust counterparts by a startling 300%. The silver lining? The skill of building trust is not inborn; it's cultivated, allowing leaders to significantly influence their organizations through focused learning and practice.

I often assert to the leaders I work with, "You cannot be an effective leader without trust." Echoing this sentiment, Warren Bennis astutely observed, "Leadership without mutual trust is a contradiction in terms."

So where does a leader begin in this trust-building journey?

Leaders must exemplify both competence—in their ability to achieve results and lead effectively—and commitment, visible in their decisions that favor the well-being of all, high integrity, and servant leadership. Both these facets are non-negotiable in the quest to establish trust.

Once competence and commitment are demonstrated consistently, it is crucial to cultivate a culture where such practices are the norm. As I remind leaders, the greatest motivator is seeing positive behavior modeled. They must embed trust-building behaviors into the fabric of daily operations:


As a leader, your authenticity is your currency in forging genuine connections. This means your communication must be grounded in sincerity and transparency. Your team should be able to trust that what you say matches what you do – that your actions are a mirror of your words. This alignment creates a sense of integrity and dependability. For example, if I commit to an open-door policy, I make sure to be available and present for my team, demonstrating that my policy is not just a phrase but a practiced reality.

Mutual Respect:

Respect in the workplace is a two-way street and is cultivated through daily interactions. It involves acknowledging the inherent value of each person and understanding their unique contributions. As I work with organizations, I encourage leaders to actively listen to their colleagues, offer help without being asked, and openly appreciate the efforts of others. In doing so, they create an atmosphere where respect is a reflection of action, not just expectation.


Keeping promises is an outward sign of an inward commitment to your role and to your team. This element of trust-building is about reliability—meeting deadlines, following through on initiatives, and being accountable for the course of action you've communicated. In my own commitments to organizations, I ensure that delivery on promises becomes a testament to my reliability, thereby solidifying my reputation as a trustworthy leader.

High Standards:

Excellence in leadership involves not only setting high standards but also being the first to adhere to them. I often work with leaders to build cultures where excellence is the norm, not the exception. This means not shying away from difficult conversations when standards slip and being proactive in addressing issues before they become ingrained habits. Upholding high standards also involves celebrating successes, which in turn, reinforces the culture of quality and dedication to excellence.


A leader’s response to mistakes can establish a powerful precedent within the team. Taking responsibility means stepping up to acknowledge errors, focusing on what can be learned, and identifying solutions. In my practice, I stress to leaders the importance of shifting from a mindset of blaming to one of constructive problem-solving--Responsible Mindset. Encouraging such behavior fosters an environment where accountability is valued and mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth rather than occasions for punishment.

In all these steps, the consistent theme is action.

By embodying these principles, leaders within organizations not only construct a foundation of trust but also inspire those around them to elevate their own standards, creating an unstoppable force that drives the entire organization forward.

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