Four Leadership Behaviors That Build or Destroy Trust

When people don’t trust their leaders, they don’t come toward something; they pull back and withdraw instead. They doubt rather than cooperate.

According to Dr. Pat Zigarmi, Founding Associate of The Ken Blanchard Companies, and Randy Conley, the Trust Practice Leader at Blanchard, a self-centered, “What’s in it for me” attitude robs an organization of the best that employees have to offer. When employees perceive that an organization—or its leaders—are less than forthcoming, employees become unwilling to contribute any discretionary energy or make any commitments to their organization’s well-being beyond the absolute minimum.

Conley adds that, “Often, the result is that employees will stay with the organization and do their job because they need a paycheck, but not much more. It becomes purely a transactional relationship with employees asking themselves, “If the organization does not do right by me, why should I do right by them?”

Four Areas to Focus On

For leaders looking to turn things around in their organization, Zigarmi and Conley recommend that leaders take a hard look in the mirror and examine their own behaviors. Here are four key areas that leaders have to be aware of when they are looking at building or restoring trust with the people they lead:

Able is about demonstrating competence. Do the leaders know how to get the job done? Are they able to produce results? Do they have the skills to make things happen—including knowing the organization and equipping people with the resources and information they need to get their job done?

Believable means acting with integrity. Leaders have to be honest in their dealings with people. In practical terms, this means creating and following fair processes. Believability is also about acting in a consistent, values-driven manner that reassures employees that they can rely on their leaders.

Connected is about demonstrating care and concern for other people. It means focusing on people and identifying their needs. It is supported by good communication skills. Leaders need to openly share information about the organization and about themselves. This allows the leader to be seen as more of a real person that a follower can identify with. When people share a little bit of information about themselves, it creates a sense of connection.

Dependable is about reliably following through on what the leaders say that they are going to do. It means being accountable for their actions and being responsive to the needs of others so if leaders promise something they must follow through.

You can learn more about what Zigarmi and Conley have to say about trust by following this link to their recent article in Blanchard’s Ignite newsletter.  Also be sure to see more information about a free webinar that Zigarmi and Conley will be conducting on Building Trust and Transparency in Your Organization.

12 thoughts on “Four Leadership Behaviors That Build or Destroy Trust

  1. Great post! Its definitely important to create a culture of teamwork where everyone is in it together, not as separate entities. I’d like to add an “E”– for “Everyone!” Working in everyone’s best interest will foster trust building and better teamwork– leading to more productivity.

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  3. Absolutely! This stifles creativity,employee moral goes out the window and the company looses at the end! The unfortunate part is that the Leader is sometimes not even aware of the damage that their attitude creates.

  4. Trust is an important aspect of a leader’s job. As recommended by Zigarmi and Conley, leaders need to take a hard look in the mirror and examine their own behaviors. Even employees should be encouraged to do the same. The ‘Mirror Mirror’ concept discussed in Vineet Nayar’s book ‘Employees First, Customers Second’, talks about creating a sense of urgency by enabling the employees to see the truth of the company’s current state. It also helps employees feel the “romance” of its possible future state.

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  6. In any kind of relationship, trust is always the foundation, from which all structures (values, long term and short term results, etc.) will raise from. If trust is flimsy, everything built up crumbles.

    This post is indeed great as it gives us concrete ideas and examples that will guide us through our career of leading others.

  7. Very insightful.
    For me, the main point is that of looking in the mirror to examine your own behaviors. Leadership is all about others after all.

    I would add transparency to the mix of trust building.

  8. In the journey of building trust & transparency, leaders need to adopt non-self centric approach while leading, one that puts the others before own self, otherwise, how can people believe in their leaders if they see things around them are not about them.

    True leaders need to more of their people than of themselves.

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