The Edelman Trust Barometer (2019) revealed that people have shifted their trust from traditional areas like government to relationships within their control, most notably their employers.

This shift has, now more than ever, put a focus on trust in the workplace, emphasising the growing importance of having leaders you can trust in. It has emphasised the significance of trusted leadership.

Trust and Trusted Leadership

To understand what trusted leadership is, we should first understand what trust itself is.

There are various definitions that try to encapsulate it, but a common consensus is that it has to do with feeling secure (Robbins, 2016). This relates to a varying degree and encompasses feeling secure in what the person tells you is true, to knowing how someone will react to situations, and even how well they can explain situations clearly. Both rely on the feeling of security, however, they are different in that trusted leadership is about behaviours that create a culture of trust. Trust is a relationship established between a trustor and a trustee. It takes two to tango, and two to trust. Both parties need to place effort into building a solid connection and create the foundations for it to flourish.

Key Components of Trusted Leadership

So, what creates a trusted leader? What are some of the words, actions, and decisions that help employees feel secure?

A quick google search comes up with a whole host of models and theories for building trust ranging from pillars of trust (Horsager, 2013), to pyramids of trust, to even the different stages and steps involved (, 2012). However, despite the diverse range of terms, they have common themes running through them.


First being the need for consistency in their actions; a leader who causes uncertainty in their actions, or even in how they are with each employee on a day to day basis is one that, realistically, employees are not going to trust due to the ambiguity they cause. There is the need for transparency and predictability in the actions of a leader for them to be perceived as trusted.


A second theme is that of altruism. Are you as a leader going above for your employees? Are you being selfless in your actions towards them? Doing so tends to gain a great deal of trust among leaders from their employees. Similar to servant leadership (Nastiezaie, Bameri and Dadkan, 2016), you are there to help them be the best they can be, and this in return will be rewarded by gaining the trust of your employees.


Finally, a third universal theme is that of safety. Linking to the earlier definition of trust and security as a key factor. Whereby security means the feeling of knowing your actions are appreciated by the company, that you will have a job tomorrow, and that you will improve every day in the role you are doing. All these themes come together to encourage trust and help an employee feel safe at a company and personal level, and if you are providing that safety barrier then trust will inevitably form too.

The Real Value

Why then is trusted leadership becoming more important in the workplace? With the change in trust from individuals focusing more on their employers, it is important that the trust is reciprocated.

People want to feel secure in their day to day lives and work is a significant portion of that. So, what benefit is this for employers from a business perspective? Simply put, the benefits of having a workforce that trust their leadership are endless!

One of the most apparent benefits includes the strengthening of relationships with your employees, the reliability of trust brings you closer to them and this in turn creates a more positive atmosphere in the workplace. Studies have found that this newfound closeness increases knowledge sharing, which in turn lead to superior performance by teams (Lee et al., 2010). Trust creates the willingness to share ideas and communicate with others, which is a critical part of knowledge sharing in teams (Mooradian, Renzl and Matzler, 2006).

Serrat (2017) puts it succinctly with the statement that nothing is as relevant as the ubiquitous impact of high trust. The feeling of safety at work that comes from a trusted leader promotes an ownership of their role which in turn; increases productivity, high degrees of personnel involvement and commitment. Having a trusted leader can also heighten loyalty of employees and increase retention rates. As the world evolves, leaders can no longer solely trust in power; instead, they must rely on the power of trust.

Solidifying Trust

We have covered what trust and trusted leadership is, the components of it, and the business benefits it brings. Now it is important to understand how to build, rebuild, and maintain it.

With no magical formula or trick for creating it, what works for one person might not work for the next. What we do know is that trust is not something you have then lose, it is something that needs to be built over time.

Maintaining, building, and rebuilding it are not separate ideas or stages that you tick off, it is an ongoing process. Out of the three components identified and discussed earlier, both safety and altruism are primarily what you can use to build trust, but consistency is still key. As a trusted leader you are aiming to create that safety by showing your altruistic nature to them. Do you listen to what they say? Do you care how they are getting on? Being a leader that cares about your employees will help make them feel safe, and in turn, trust you.

The speed at which trust is destroyed is generally faster than it is built (Bachman et al, 2015). This makes maintaining it just as essential as gaining it. This is where the component of consistency plays a key role. The more consistent in your actions, the more employees know what to expect and expectations won’t be broken as easily. They trust you to make the right decision over the easy one and respect that, even if they may not always agree (Horsager, 2013). Consistency does not eliminate the chance trust will not be broken but repairing it may be easier.

Repairing it can also be assisted by the dual approach of using legalistic and voluntary approaches complementary to each other (CIPD, 2012). The legalistic refers to the regulatory systems in place for deterring breaks of trust by dissuading untrustworthy behaviour through sanctions, and the voluntary to how managers act.

Becoming a trusted leader can take significant time and effort, and results will vary from person to person. The target should be to maintain consistency, have realistic expectations, and aim to be an altruistic approachable leader whose goal is to make their employees feel as secure as possible at work.

To find out more about how ChangingPoint can support your organisation in developing trusted leadership from your leaders in work, please get in touch.


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Written by Jayne Ruff

Jayne Ruff, Occupational Psychologist & Managing Director at ChangingPoint. To find out more about how ChangingPoint can help you align minds to transform your business, get in touch.

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