Four Ways Leaders Create Trust


A leader helps trust grow by communicating openly, listening for understanding, being authentic in action, and holding yourself and others accountable.  All of these seem to go back to an element of communication.

  • Communicate openly and with a spirit of generosity and service to those who follow you. Whether or not you are a supervisor or manager to those you lead, or simply an organizational influencer, it is essential to establish trusting, give-and-take discussions with others. Share insights and your perspective to help develop trust among those who follow you.  This creates a more connected and responsive group because everyone is on the same page.  Leaders do this in order to serve others or the organization.  It is not about showing off your knowledge. Building trust includes being highly collaborative, willingly sharing knowledge with others, giving your time and energy, and attending to the contributions of followers.  This produces a fluid collaboration of knowledge, insights, perspectives and understandings flowing freely across the group.  Leaders who communicate openly, sharing their knowledge, time and energy are often seen as approachable, engaging, and thoughtful.  These leaders take a personal interest in their followers and actively encourage them to become their best selves.  They seek opportunities to see the best attributes and contributions of others through the free-flowing communication process.
  • Listen to others, not only to hear what they say, but also to understand the meaning behind their words. Listening plays a critical role in establishing trust because it shows the leader’s commitment to the other person. Both the leader and the organization grow when they consider the perspectives and concerns of their followers. When people listen attentively, they project empathy and show they are willing to consider the whole picture to understand how others will be affected. This all comes back to open and honest communication – making followers feel safe when revealing personal information, voicing complaints, or trying something new or untested. It is important to practice and improve listening skills and learn how to listen deeply for understanding. This shows your followers you are acting with them in mind.
  • Be courageous enough to know your own strengths and weaknesses, own who you really are, and accept that you must constantly improve and grow. This is the heart of being authentic. It takes courage and trust to be authentic. Authentic leaders take risks, step out of their comfort zone, and stop placing blame on others.  These leaders transparently share both successes and failures. Leaders need to share not only what goes right, but also what goes wrong, so they can learn from their mistakes.  It is not easy to share your failures as a leader with your followers, but this could help others learn from your mistakes.  Authentic leaders are self-aware, and continuously seek to improve.  They seek feedback, including 360-degree feedback, they question their beliefs about themselves, and they understand the need to always learn, grow, and develop.
  • Hold yourself accountable to do what you say you will do, and to hold others accountable for what they have committed to doing. This may go without saying, but it is so very important in building trust for a leader to always follow-through with what they say they will do. However, a leader also needs to firmly, yet empathetically, hold others accountable.  Especially in a business setting many leaders prefer to avoid conflicts and those difficult conversations that are required when followers (think your directly reporting employees) do not complete their responsibilities.  To build trust and to encourage others to become leaders themselves, it is important to hold others to the highest standards that they can reasonably attain.  Next time you must have one of these difficult conversations remember that you have a responsibility to help them become as accountable as you have committed to be yourself.