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How Leaders Build Trust

To be effective, leaders need their team’s trust. But how do you get that trust — and how do you get it back if you’ve lost it?


Three behaviors are essential.

Positive Relationships. Trust is in part based on the extent to which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people and groups. To trust a leader must:

  • Stay in touch on the issues and concerns of others.
  • Balance results with concern for others.
  • Generate cooperation between others.
  • Resolve conflict with others.
  • Give honest feedback in a helpful way.

Good Judgement/Expertise. Another factor in whether people trust a leader is the extent to which a leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. They must understand the technical aspects of the work as well as have a depth of experience. This means:

  • They use good judgement when making decisions.
  • Others trust their ideas and opinions.
  • Others seek after their opinions.
  • Their knowledge and expertise make an important contribution to achieving results.
  • Can anticipate and respond quickly to problems.

Consistency. The final element of trust is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do. People rate a leader high in trust if they:

  • Are a role model and set a good example.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Honor commitments and keep promises.
  • Follow through on commitments.
  • Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.

You don’t need to be perfect to be an excellent leader but when it comes to trust, all three of these elements need to be above average.

If a leader has a preference for a particular skill, they are more likely to perform better at it. Think about which of these elements of trust you have a stronger preference for – and which you prefer least. Because you need to be above average on each, it is probably worth your time to focus on improving the latter.


Source: research done by Harvard Business Review

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