7 Ways to Gain and Keep Trust as a Leader

People follow people they trust.

I’ve found trust develops over time and experience – as we witness trustworthy behavior. Honestly, as a leader, I’ve felt a delicate tension in maintaining trust. People look for a leader to be strong, independent and confident. Yet, we trust people who are approachable, inclusive and humble.

How do we combine those traits to be trusted leaders?

Here are 7 ways to gain and keep trust as a leader:

Always display confidence, but never cockiness. People will trust a competent leader, but one who is arrogant will be dismissed quickly.

Always follow through, which means you never over-commit. When a leader does what they says they will, people gain trust. When the leader always bails on responsibility – when they have a new idea every day, but nothing ever comes to reality – people begin to doubt everything the leader says.

Always put trust in others, so you’ll have an opportunity for them to put trust in you. Trust is a mutually exclusive commodity. People won’t extend you trust they don’t feel they receive from you. This means you must not be controlling, micro-managing, or negative towards every new idea they bring to the table. It means you must empower, delegate, and give authority to people.

Always extend grace, but be firm in some non-negotiables. I have written previously about the non-negotiable things for me in leadership – things such as responsiveness and mutual-respect – and I share them often with our team. We should have some standards which are not open to discussion. Those should usually be issues of character, vision or values. But, we need to allow people the freedom make their own way, including the freedom to fail, make mistakes, and be assured we will forgive them if needed.

Always try to be knowledgeable and aware by constantly learning, but realize you don’t know everything and you’ll know far more with a team. People trust a teachable leader. They are leery of a leader who knows it all – or pretends they do. We must ask questions, allow others on our team to teach us at times, continually seek wisdom and develop individually, just as we expect those we are trying to lead to do.

Always exhibit humility, but have courage to do the hard things. A trusted leader is humble enough to share recognition, but diligent to do the things everyone expects of the leader – such as lead through the hard seasons, remain calm in crisis, and encourage others when they need hope.

Always value people more than you value progress. This is especially difficult for driven leaders. We want success and this often is measured in numbers. But, people trust people they know genuinely care for them. We must see people as individuals, get to know them, and genuinely love the people we are trying to love – considering their interests even ahead of our own.

What other ways would you add to gain and keep trust as a leader?

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18 thoughts on “7 Ways to Gain and Keep Trust as a Leader

  1. I love this post Ron! Showing others we lead that we are human and that we make mistakes just like everyone else is something that I take very serious.

    When I can admit I was wrong and I don’t know it all, sets a precedence for trust.

    Very good insight!


  2. It's clear from your list here is that trust is a matter of balance, and I wholeheartedly agree. Each point has two apparently opposing terms to keep in proper balance. Trust is degraded when you project an imbalance. You don't even have to be unbalanced, but if one side of the spectrum between a pair of terms is apparent and the other side isn't, people begin to be suspicious. On the other hand, if you intentionally project a balance that doesn't actually exist in your leadership, people will pick up on the disingenuity and trust will still be degraded. So you must both have balance as a matter of intent as well as a matter of open display. It's what we might otherwise call transparency.

  3. These seven tips can be really helpful because they cover all the major aspects a leader needs to consider. In brief words, to know what he is talking about, to accept opinions, to be confident in his decisions and maybe the most important thing is to trust others. Furthermore, a great leader is focused not only on his well-being but on the evolution of all the employees.

  4. ~ Encourages debates and discussions in the team but not divisions
    ~ Nurtures unity in the team not the uniformity
    ~ Is assertive in nature but not aggressive
    ~ Fulfills the commitment not only for gains but even when it hurts