Aim Higher: How Leaders Build and Destroy Trust

How to Build and Destroy Trust

In a townhall session, I was once asked, “What is the worst thing a leader can do?”

My answer: Destroy trust. Trust is really that important.


“The inability to open up to hope is what blocks trust, and blocked trust is the reason for blighted dreams.”– Elizabeth Gilbert


How do you build trust?

Colin Powell has said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” He’s right—it’s not a secret, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This is especially true when it comes to issues of trust. Building trust is time consuming. Destroying it can happen in an instant. Though we all make mistakes, if you actively try to cover up a lapse in trust, you can lose everything.

We want to trust people. We want to be trusted. No ethical leader ever goes into a business situation thinking, “How can I decrease the trust of my team in me?” And yet we do things that maybe don’t break trust outright but diminish it in small ways.


How to Destroy Trust

How? We’re inconsistent. We’re not always transparent. We unintentionally communicate that we care about colleagues only in terms of work product rather than as individuals with their own goals, needs and lives. Over time, these can create a distrustful environment.


“Inconsistency destroys trust.” -Drew Bordas


Do you have an action plan for building and maintaining trust? If you want to succeed as a leader, maybe it’s time you did.

There are many ways to build trust:

Do what you say you will do. Admit your mistakes. Trust and empower others.

There are many ways to destroy it: Lie. Criticize. Micromanage.

My recommendation is to keep a running list of the ways you can build and destroy trust, then evaluate your progress against the list periodically. It may help shine a light on ways you can be a more impactful, more trusted friend and colleague.



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“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” -Albert Einstein


“A lack of transparency destroys trust.” -Tammi Spayde


“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.” -Thomas Moore


“The hallmark of teams that have high trust is that they actually care about each other as people, not just business colleagues.” -Skip Prichard


“Micromanaging destroys trust.” -Bruce Rhoades








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