How to Build Trust with Those You Lead

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | How to Build Trust with Those You LeadAs the author of Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success and as a nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, I share my views on the traits of effective leaders. These views are based on over four decades of serving in the trenches advancing through 11 jobs to the position of CEO of a global company, and observing other leaders serving on numerous public, private, private equity and nonprofit boards.

I also have a window on the workplace issues that are on people’s minds. I post every article I write on LinkedIn. The articles that get the highest number of views are on the lack of trust between bosses and their direct reports.

Stephen Covey, the late motivational speaker, writer, and advisor, once wrote, “Without trust we don’t truly collaborate; we merely coordinate or, at best, cooperate. It is trust that transforms a group of people into a team.”

The CEO’s tone at the top and the culture they nurture determines the level of trust in the organization. So, how does one earn the trust of others?

Always lead with the highest standards of ethics and integrity

There should be no misunderstanding as to the tone and culture that you embrace. These reflect the values to which you hold yourself and your employees accountable. Employees want to be part of an organization with high ethical standards and work for a leader that lives by those standards.

Never lead through fear and intimidation

I once worked for a tyrant. His style took a huge toll on the morale of his people. I was promoted to be his peer and then promoted to be his boss. I then fired him. After appointing a very effective leader to replace him, it took months before the employees of that division started to make decisions on their own again.

Acknowledge the brutal facts of reality

Never shoot the messenger. You can’t solve a problem unless you know what it is. You want your people to feel comfortable when sharing bad news with you and confident that you will listen to them. Most problems can be solved if addressed as soon as they are known. They may become unsolvable if left unaddressed for too long.

Be consistent and readable by those you lead

As the leader, ensure your style is consistent and that your expectations are understood. Situations will arise when decisions need to be made by your employees for which there is no operating procedure or precedent. Employees will fall back on their common sense and good critical judgment, and proceed in a way consistent with your expectations, tone, and culture.

Don’t micromanage

Steve Jobs, the former chairman and CEO of Apple once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Ensure your expectations are understood, negotiate goals, provide the needed resources and cut your people loose to do their thing.

Never publicly undermine your direct reports

Never criticize the people within your organization in public. It damages their ability to do their jobs. It only depowers them and makes them less effective. They lose credibility with those they will need to deal with in the future. Good employees won’t tolerate your behavior. They will leave the company and perhaps go to work for your competitor.

Don’t retaliate against those who follow their conscience and do the right thing

Retaliation shows you lack character. You may need those who you retaliate against in the future. What goes around comes around.

Organizations in which employees trust their leaders perform at a significantly higher level than those in which trust is lacking. Be sure you engender trust with those you lead.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Stan SilvermanStan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success. He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. For more information please visit

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