We want leaders whom we can trust. In a recent Gallup survey of 10,000 followers, what surfaced as the top characteristics people needed from their leaders were honesty, integrity, and respect.  These words describe the outcomes of strong relationships built on trust. 

We look for role models whose behavior we feel is worth emulating. Whether it is coaches, professors, co-workers, bosses, or pastors, we look for people we can trust to lead us through ordinary situations as well as times of learning, adventure, and uncertainty. We want leaders who take us seriously and who can adapt when everything is not ideal.

As a leader, you earn trust when you follow through on commitments. Then as trust grows, people feel more at ease in trusting you with bigger commitments and other areas of leadership. As you live out your trustworthiness, people learn to trust you.

Five Ways to Build Trust

Here are five ways you can build the trust people need from you as a leader.

1. Be dependable

Say what you mean and mean what you say. To increase trust within your relationships, it is absolutely necessary to follow through on what you say you can and will do.  Even with what seems small and simple, if people experience a lack of follow through, you are revealing that what you say cannot be trusted. So, follow through with what you say you will do. The truth is you are only as good as your word. 

You already know whether you follow through on your commitments like showing up on time or embellishing the truth. People will have difficulty trusting you if you can’t trust yourself. Trust gives birth to trust.

2. Be vulnerable

Vulnerability is an integral part of the trust-building process. Brené Brown writes, “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Vulnerability is the path to greater clarity in purpose and more meaningful relationships.

To be vulnerable, you need a healthy self-awareness in sharing your feelings and your experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.  It will be in risking vulnerability that you model for those who follow.

3. Be respectful

A basic level of respect is the common denominator in every trust relationship. The deeper and more intimate the relationship the more important your respect. If those who follow you feel you are condescending and not taking them seriously, you are undermining the trust you need to be a good leader.  

You must remember that every time you treat someone in a way that demeans them or violates that basic dignity, you harm your connection and make it more difficult for them to trust you.

4. Be generous

Extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Assume the best of others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. When you are generous with others, they will be generous with you. When in doubt, seek to understand and be slow to judge.

Remember, people can only act upon what they know. Don’t hold them responsible for what they don’t know. Brene Brown writes, “Our relationship is only trusting if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors and then check in with me.” Be generous. Assume people are doing the best they can with what they know. 

5. Be receptive

Relationships flourish when people feel relatively equal. Most people understand that relationships involve a balance between giving and taking. They also understand that most of us give more than we take. Trust grows out of the balance of give and take. When you don’t let others give, even with your best intentions, you deny them part of this balance. Be willing to give others the opportunity to live into their strengths and to share their gifts.  

When you develop this balance of giving and receiving, trusting what people have to offer, then you are creating an environment of trust where people feel safe, valued, and appreciated.

Take Action

Do you want to be a leader that people can trust? Do you want to be an honest, dependable, integrated, and respectful leader? Of course, you do. So, below is one way you can check yourself regarding being a trusted leader.

Just know up front, this will not be easy.

  1. Choose five people with whom you live, work, or play. These five people need to be people who will give you honest feedback.
  2. Have them answer these questions for you:
    • Can you depend upon what I say to be true?
    • Do I follow through with what I say I will do?
    • Do I treat people with respect?
    • Do I honor and value the strengths and gifts of others?
    • Knowing what you know about me, are you able to be honest with me?
  1. Make time to have a conversation with each of the five persons using the questions in #2 as your subject.
  2. After your initial feedback conversation, ask each person to give you feedback over the next 6 weeks as you focus upon becoming the leader people can trust.

Because trust is one characteristic followers look for in their leaders and because our world, our communities, and our churches are looking for leaders who can be trusted, now is the time to earn the trust people want from you as their leader. 

You were created for such a time as this. Become the leader people want to follow.  Become the leader you were created to be.   

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