Building Trust as a Leader – How to do it?

Jan 14, 2019

“Trust starts with trustworthy leadership. It must be built into the corporate culture.”

– Barbara Brooks Kimmel

They say that trust and leadership go hand in hand. However, just becoming a leader doesn’t automatically make you trustworthy. You need to earn it. Trust isn’t essential for leadership only; it is necessary for all good relationships. From personal life to professional life, you need to build trust with the other party to have a good relationship with them. This also includes the relationship of a manager and employee. Your employees will be more engaged and dedicated to their work when they know that they can trust you. They perceive that everything that you are doing is in their best interest and they try to give in their best efforts and hard work to all their tasks. This leads to the formation of engaged and dedicated teams that work hard and help businesses improve their bottom line.

It doesn’t matter if you give your employees vacations, free food or a fancy foosball table in the dining room because none of it really matters without trust.

In the current working environment, there is a trust deficit at work that impacts the innovation, engagement and the discretionary efforts of the employees. All of this also reflects upon the business results. Workplace trust has hit a new low these days, and leaders need to take effective actions to reverse this erosion. Many companies warrant the rear-view mirror approaches that aim at dissecting and repairing the things that went wrong at the organisational level. They offer strategic initiatives to enhance and improve their work-culture. However, that’s not always the answer to all the trust issues that are creating a gap between the leaders and their employees.

Trust is the foundation for building effective, capable and strong teams. Trust creates a positive work culture which produces results. The cost of having a workplace where no one trusts each other or the leaders is greater than what we may be aware of.

Have you ever worked in a place where trust just doesn’t exist?

These workplaces have people who are inadequate, unreliable, uncommunicative, inconsistent and disloyal. Their work and their moods are inconsistent, and it reflects on the business’ bottom line. It is a low-trust workplace where things like an undesirable environment and high stress are common. Neither the leader nor the employees are happy and dedicated.

On the other hand, in an environment where people trust one another, they will start taking ownership of their responsibilities, speak highly about one another, help each other out and communicate with one another more often. This tends to lead to productive workplaces and environments. With trust, people are provided with a safe place where they can share their dreams and struggles and reach their goals as a team as well as on an individual level.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to create an environment of trust in your workplace. Only this will help you create a better workplace environment while improving your business and its productivity.

Are You A Trustworthy Leader?

There are 5 questions that can help you determine if you are a trustworthy leader or not. Take a look at these and find out where you need improvements.

  • Do the people in your organisation constantly question what you expect of them?
  • Does your team have a high amount of disrespect and gossip among them?
  • Do most of your team members fail to perform their tasks or underperform them?
  • Would you describe someone as a reliable person?
  • Do you trust people to take on new roles and responsibilities?

If your answer to the first three questions is yes and the last two questions is no, then you need to work on building trust in your organisation as a leader. Only then will you be able to lead them as a team and will be able to improve the productivity of your business.

The Elements of Trust

There are 5 elements of trust. You need to work on each of these to show your employees that you care about them and lead them in the right direction. Here are these elements explained:


Transparency is one of the most important things when it comes to building trust among your team and employees. Be transparent with your team and show them accountability through communication. Here are the things that come under being transparent:

  • Be honest
  • Be vulnerable
  • Give feedback
  • State expectations

If you are not transparent, you will find your team making up their own truths about things. This will lead to gossips and low morale. For example, if they make a mistake and you don’t give them your feedback about it, they will assume that it is OK to do it again. Similarly, if you don’t appreciate them for their efforts with even a single ‘good job’ or a pat on their back, they would think that you didn’t care of the results that they have provided you.

As a leader, it is important to give positive feedback and constructive criticism to your people. It will help them understand your expectations of them and where you are coming from. Admitting your mistakes and being vulnerable is also an important part of building a transparent environment at your organisation. This shows them that you are also not perfect, and this makes them trust you more as they can relate to you. Lead by example and you will see results in some time.


Respecting your employees is the most important thing for building your trust in them. Respect the opinions, ideas and time of your employees. Don’t show up at 9:30 when you called the meeting at 9. If you claim to have an open-door policy, don’t shut the door if you don’t agree with someone’s opinions or perception. It is important to keep in mind that great listeners make great leaders. You may not agree with everything that someone is saying, but it is important to respect their feelings. You need to tell them that you honour their efforts and dedication. This helps build trust, and your employees feel safe if they need to open up to you.

In an environment where everyone respects each other, your organisation is going to thrive.


Unity among your team members is also an important thing to build trust. You need to untie your team and let people know that gossips and cliques will not be tolerated among your team. Gossip is one of the most serious workplace problems. It kills the morale of the entire team. Trust, on the other hand, is the cure. Once you are clear on the ‘no to gossip’ clause, the next step you should take is to have all of them work together towards one vision and one goal. Give them projects that require them to work together with one another. Tell them that the success or the failure of this project depends on all of them and they all will face the consequences in case of failure and rewards when they succeed. This will instil and develop in them the idea of teamwork. A team that succeeds together and struggles together is a team that is united and will succeed.

4.Show Them That You Care

John C. Maxwell, a leadership expert, said,

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

It is important to note that trust builds when the other person knows that you value them not just as an employee but as a person. If you want your employees to have increased job satisfaction, you need to value them and care for them. Even little things can help you build trust among your employees when they know that you care for them. Learn about them personally, ask them for their input more often, praise them daily, or just have a casual conversation with them. You have no idea how valued it makes an employee feel, and this is what will help you earn their trust. It will not only help you gain trust, but it will also help you earn their loyalty, and that is all a true leader needs from their followers.

5.Build Morale

As a leader, it is your responsibility to build employee morale through trust-building activities. It is a known fact that people are more productive and happy if they enjoy the people they work with. One way you can do it as a leader is through trust-building activities. You can include some trust-building exercises in your regular training sessions. One example is the ‘index card game’ where everyone writes something positive about their fellow employees. When you are finished, each employee will have an index card that is full of surprise compliments that they didn’t know their teammates thought about them. Small efforts and activities like these actually help in bringing the teammates closer to one another as well as to the leader as they think of them as a dedicated person who cares about them.

How to Build Trust as a Leader

Here are some important things that a leader should do to build trust as a leader.

1.Demonstrate Passion

As a leader, you need to be a role model. If you want your employees to be passionate about something, you need to demonstrate the same amount of passion for them. The employees should trust the fact that you are the leader for all the right reasons and that you are concerned about the success of the teammates and the company at large.

2.Share Your Knowledge

It is important to share your knowledge and expertise about the products or industry as it suggests to them that you know what you are talking about. As per an article published in Harvard Business Review, employees like to know that their leaders can do their jobs well and that they have technical competencies and skills that have brought them up to this level.

3.Keep Your Promises

It is important to only make those promises that you can keep. You will not be able to earn the trust of your employees unless you mean what you say and say what you mean. It may seem like a simple thing, but it becomes difficult when you become a leader. You may be tempted to gain the admiration of your employees by making false promises to them, but it is important to note that admiration comes from respect and trust more than anything else. With false promises, you will only be breaking their trust which is hard to recover from.

4.Trust Them

Trust can only be effective in the workplace if it can be reciprocated. It goes both ways. You need to trust your employees in their decision-making skills, their abilities and their judgments. Only then will they trust you with the same. Being a leader is about helping your team become the best as ultimately their success is a reflection of your success.


Communication is the key to building trust. Trusting someone is not easy unless you know them. The more your employees are able to communicate with you, the more trust they have in you. Thus, it is important to communicate with your team about everything, be it bad or good. Recognize and praise them if something is great and talk to them if they need to up their game and improve their work. The clearer you are in your communication, the more trusting the environment will be in the workplace.

As a leader, it is important to see beyond self. The more you are able to nurture and grow trust among your employees and you, the more you will be able to make them work towards your common goals. Jefferson Maguire is a leading executive search company in London, UK. We specialise in helping executives in public and private firms in the UK locate the best managers for different positions. Our expert team of specialist head-hunters can help you recruit the best talent for your company. For more information about our services, get in touch with us today.


Loading Conversation