Trust is the lifeblood of effective, enduring leadership.

Want your employees to trust you enough to follow you just about anywhere?  

Here are 4 things you can do to earn trust as a leader. 


Read the following list while embracing two important concepts:

»  Trust is based on the emotional connections between people, not on the connections between people on an org chart.


»  Heed the good advice of Aristotle that any good novelist, playwright or screenwriter does: character is action.


1.  Show Your Face:


You know the show Undercover Boss?  Strive to never be a viable candidate for that show.  You want to be the boss  that every one of your employees will take one look at in that disguise of yours and say, “Hey, nice try!  I know who you are!”

But it needs to go beyond that.

Donald Trump



Don’t be that holy visitor from the top floor who walks briskly through the cube farm and bellows Pythonesque pomposities like, “Morning, Johnson! Keep up the good work now!”




You need to know who they are.  You need to demonstrate you care about them by taking an interest in who they are and what their day-to-day working reality is all about: what the value they bring to the organization is, what their challenges and suggestions are.

If you’re leading such a big group of people that the goal of knowing all of them is just not feasible, you should still schedule a regular time in your calendar to make the rounds and have some meaningful face time with as many as you can.  This is not an all or nothing scenario.

Trust is based on relationship.  The person who is trusted never has to say, “Trust me,” and will never hear the reply, “Trust you? I don’t even know you.”


2.  Put Your Employees’ Interests Above Your Own:


If you poll your employees about whether or not they trust you, many of them will filter this question as, “Do I trust them to do what’s best for me?”  Or, in other words, do they think you’ve got their back; that, when the chips are down and things get tough, do they trust that you’ll put their interests before your own personal interests.

Leaders Eat Last

For a deeper exploration of this, delve into Simon Sinek‘s latest book, Leaders Eat Last.

For a more concise affirmation, trust Spock’s statement, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.”



3.  Lead by Example:


Think about any movie you’ve ever seen that involves an armed battle.  Now think about the leaders of each opposing side.  Which side almost always emerges victorious?  The side whose soldiers have the most trust in their leader — the side who’s leader joins them in the actual battle, not the one who commands from the safety of the rear.


Joan of Arc


If you’re calling on your employees to sacrifice for the good of the organization, you need to sacrifice, too.  You need to be right there in the trenches with them, sleeves rolled up, showing them you believe in the cause you’re asking them to fight for.


4.  Trust the People You’re Leading


Another key factor in earning the trust of your employees is demonstrating that you trust them.

I’m not talking about throwing people into the deep end, just assuming they can swim to the other side, and then saying, “Hey, I gave you a chance to prove yourself and you blew it.  From now on you don’t leave the shallow end unless I’m there to watch you.”  The only people who should be micro-managed are those who respond well to being micro-managed.

Rather, give your employee a goal to accomplish, ask them to devise and show you their plan to achieve it, offer any necessary guidance, and then get out of the way and empower them with 100% trust to accomplish it.  Based on the results, adjust the amount of active support you need to give them.  You’ll soon discover what their full abilities are: if they meet or surpass the expected standard, great, you know you can trust them to get the job done; if they don’t meet the expected standard, you can collaborate on a learning and development plan to address the areas of needed improvement.  Do this and they’ll trust you have their best interests at heart.


Ernest Hemingway“The best way to find out if you can

trust somebody — is to trust them.”

—  Ernest Hemingway


Have a productive and enjoyable day.