top of page

Trust or Trustworthiness?

Trust ranks as the most important leadership characteristic in just about every leadership study ever done. Yet how much do we really know about it beyond our intuitive “I know it when I see it” mentality? Some interesting work being done on trust and leadership in the domain of leadership coaching.

Important distinctions about trust can be made when we break it into component parts. The first part of trust is genuineness, in other words, do I appear to be sincere or believable. The second part of trust is ability – do I have the skills or competence to do what I said I would do. The third part is history – what would our past together suggest about my trustworthiness. All three must exist for trust to be present.

Another way to think about trust is offered by Harkins in his book Powerful Conversations. He defines trust as consisting of four Cs.

Caring How leaders deepen relationships

Clarity How leaders avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding

Consistency How leaders convey and reinforce message

Commitment How leaders follow through

My clients generally find it easier to think about trust in smaller chunks such as those provided by Harkins. In other words, it is much easier to answer the question “how do I avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding” than “am I trustworthy.” The greater concept of trust is generally too “loaded” to lend itself to a constructive conversation.

I often use the analogy of being physically fit to explain what it takes to gain and maintain trust. One relevant part of the analogy is that you don’t get physically fit and then stop. You have to continue to work to maintain a level of fitness. Trust is the same. Though you have gained trust, it is not an on/off switch. The level of trust is constantly moving based on most recent behavior. Even under the best of circumstances, trust needs constant attention.

The important questions become obvious. What have I done to build and maintain trust with others? If I remove trust from the arena of “being a good person” and consider the elements, how do I show up as trustworthy? In what ways have I diminished trust with others? Am I more or less trustworthy in specific domains in my life (for example, family, work, self, friends, etc.)?

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page