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how to be trusted leader

5 min read

Asking yourself if you're a trusted leader may not be something you question every day, if at all, and you may even be wondering why it matters as long as your team produces results. Take a moment to reflect...

As a leader, your job is to set direction and create the environment where people can and want to do their best work – where people are engaged. And trust is crucial in fostering employee engagement.

Trust enables you to inspire others and have an impact on the way your people think and act, especially when it comes to demonstrating the purpose, mission and values of your organisation that help you achieve your most important goals and objectives.

Others’ willingness to be influenced by you depends completely on whether they trust you. Without trust, why should people do what you ask or suggest?


Trust is earned, not awarded

Here are two skills you can work on to build trust in you in a leader: Making sure you practice open and honest communications and demonstrating authenticity in what you say and do.

Number one: Open and honest communication is a foundation for employee engagement because of its link to building an environment of trust. When you are transparent in what you share with employees, when you tell them the truth and when you encourage dialogue that has room for dissent, disagreement and diversity of opinions without fear of punishment or retribution, you earn trust.

Download the RG Culture Book for an insider view of how our Leadership Team  practices open and honest communication »

Number two: Do what you say will you do. This is a behaviour we highly recommend integrating into your company culture. Not only are accountability and responsibility important traits in the business world, all things being equal, what you do is more noticeable the higher up you go.

People are closely watching how you act and interact with others. And let’s get more specific and make “doing what you say you will” about the way you live your company values. This can make the difference in how trusted and successful you are as a leader.

Lack of authenticity in your actions leads to a lack of trust

Think about it... if you’re asking people to do certain behaviours that support your values, but you don’t make it a practice to do them yourself, the inconsistency will only contribute to the “us vs. them” mentality that can sprout up between management and the front line.

You’ll earn more trust as a manager of people when you can effectively and consistently manage by your company values. To tie into the importance of communication noted above, incorporate the values into your dialogue. I call this “making the experience part of the conversation.”

Take a minute at the start of each meeting to share a success or a positive customer experience that articulates a value in action. Mastering this skill will also help you remind the workforce about what is important and how each employee makes it happen – reinforcing the importance and purpose of their role while also celebrating their good work.


Truth time: We think we’re better leaders than we are

Marshall Goldsmith, world-renowned business educator and coach, says that as we become more successful in the business world (for example, moving up the leadership chain), the more difficult it becomes for people to tell us the truth, and for us to hear it. He further concludes that 98 percent of leaders see themselves in the top 50 percent of the most successful leaders in their firm.

Since I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to leaders from various industries across the country on a regular basis, I decided to conduct a little experiment to test Goldsmith’s theory as it relates to being a trusted leader.

When I found myself in front of a hundred or so leaders from a manufacturing company in the Midwest, I decided to poll the audience: “How many of you are in the top 50 percent of the most trusted and effective leaders in this company?”

A lot of hands went up. The majority of the room.

I told them to look around... to see how many people had their hands up. Awkward laughter filled the room and I reinforced Goldsmith’s assertion ... at least 90 percent of the room thought they were in the top 50 percent of the most trusted and effective leaders.

I’ve conducted this same experiment many more times, with leaders from different locations and different industries, and guess what? I get the same results. How could this be true?


While statistically insane – in our heads, it’s real. We are predisposed to think that we are better than we are. (Another example: How many of you think you’re an above average driver? I know I think I am!)

All kidding aside, what this means is that most people probably need a little help in becoming a trusted and effective leader. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have room to grow and improve.

So really take some time to consider whether your people trust you, or whether you need to rethink your actions and/or leadership style. And if you’re not sure, ask them! Conduct an employee survey and eliminate the barriers that separate you as a leader from the people on your team.

Start by consistently doing what you say you will do and being open, honest and transparent in your communications. Think of the competitive advantage you’ll gain by being a trusted leader whose workforce is not only engaged, but also more accepting, adaptable and aligned to the same values and goals that help you achieve results.

Gregg Lederman

Gregg Lederman is an Advisor to Reward Gateway and is passionate about making the world a better place to work. As the CEO of Brand at Work, Inc. he is a professional speaker and coach on leadership, employee engagement and customer experience.

Reward Gateway Advisor

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