The 9 Ways Great Leaders Build Trust


When I started to pen this post trust was not on my mind. This was to be about establishing an innovation culture. So, here I sat at 4 a.m. befuddled. After all the rambling jargon with absurd theories of the month left me fully cognizant that something was missing. The human element. I could see trust as the way to build unassailable advantages. Which is after all the reason to innovate. If this proved obvious to me, then why don’t more leaders and their organizations develop trust rather than, “My way or the highway?”

In my work as a consultant for more than 25 years I have learned trust to be the central component to successful organizations.  Trust seems to be an archaic throw back if you will of another time. Organizations with high trust outperform organizations with low trust by nearly three times.

Make people matter. If your employees feel they have a stake in the success of the organization they will find strategies to curb costs and satisfy customers. In fact, they will also help you recruit and retain best talent. 

Effective leaders understand trust thrives and create excellences. Here are 10 ways leaders, with or without titles, grow authentic trust at work.

1. They’re good at what they do. Content may be king on the internet, but competence is king at work. Competence builds performance trust. The competent performance of your job is a litmus test for believability.

Ken Blanchard Company

2. They’re passionate about their work. Passion isn’t about cheerleading, platitudes, or crank-it-up faux enthusiasm. It comes from an inner desire, determination, and drive. For many, it’s about making a difference or contributing to the whole. It shows up softly in some leaders; loudly in others, but it’s easily discernible by anyone around them.

3. They operate with self-awareness. They pay attention to their words and actions, operating with self-alignment and behavioral integrity. They don’t commit what they can’t control, make promises they can’t keep, or fail to own their mistakes or shortcomings.

4. They care about people. They’re kind and considerate, operating with a compassionate heart. They see people as individuals, not with gender, generational, or stereotypical biases.

5. They want the best for you. They bring out the best in others, help them apply and develop their strengths and reach their goals. These are the people who help provide challenges and opportunities to help you go where you want to go. They’re working to make a bigger pie where everyone can be successful.

6. They listen. They don’t listen so they can talk; they listen so they can learn. By withholding their judgment, being present, and engaging real dialogue, they embrace differences, create openness, and facilitate connection.

7. They have perspective. In the real-world of what matters in life, trust-building leaders have perspective. Certainly there are crises at work, but they don’t yell “fire” with every hiccup or problem. They step back before sounding the alarm, put setbacks in context, and understand things don’t always turn out despite big efforts.

8. They manage direction and work, not people. They paint word-pictures to help people see the end vision, or “what it looks like” to hit the target. They leave the fun in work by setting direction, not dictating details. They clear hurdles, reduce bureaucracy and make it easier, not harder, for people to get their work done.

9. They say thank you. They appreciate, value, and acknowledge the efforts and contributions of those they work with. In the words of Arnold H. Glasgow, “A good leader takes a little more than his share of blame; a little less than his share of credit.” They do both.

Making your job easier, because you cultivated leaders instead of followers.  Adapted from

What people are saying

We can help you build high levels of trust in your employees and customers that increase your top line growth. 

For the past few decades, the smartest guys in the room have touted numerous theoretical leadership and change programs-of-the-month that promise to improve engagement, increase profits, lower costs, and enhance reputations.

We are different.  We have been trusted to work for Whirlpool Corporation, MITRE, U.S. Army and companies of all sizes.  See more We’d like to work with you too.

Make the Call

Call Jim at (719) 445-1204 or use this form to schedule a free phone consultation. You and he will discuss how your organizational culture operates today – and how you’d like it to operate tomorrow.

Organizational leaders have repeatedly complained for decades about money wasted on training programs that have little or no long-term impact. Human resource professionals have lost credibility in boardrooms for not delivering programs that improve the bottom-line and legitimately impact behavior.


Jim Woods is president of The Jim Woods Group. A management consulting firm. Go here to see his work He advises and speaks to organizations large and small on how to increase top line growth in times of uncertainty and complexity. Some of his speaking and consulting clients include: U.S. Army, MITRE Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Whirlpool, and 3M. See more at his website

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Posted in Authentic Leadership, Creativity
4 comments on “The 9 Ways Great Leaders Build Trust
  1. […] The 9 Ways Great Leaders Build Trust […]


  2. Dan says:

    Nice post Jim. You have a clear view of effective leadership! Thanks.


  3. […] Simply make sure you include some type of protein in your pre-game meal. And don’t wait until the last minute to fuel up–the last thing most of us want to do […]


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