Building Leadership Trust Requires a Leap of Faith


When I was 17 years old, my family moved across the state to a new life. It was the first (and only) time my parents ever moved us. It was a huge deal. Because of all the unknowns – new school, new friends, unfamiliar town, my parents could have decided to tighten the reins on my social activities. They didn’t. Instead, they operated in the same manner as they did when we lived in the small town where they had grown up: they operated on faith that I’d make smart choices.

I made friends quickly in my new town. When they came to pick me up for an evening out, they would ask my parents, “What is Jenni’s curfew?” My folks would smile and say, “She doesn’t have one. We trust her judgment.”

Typically, this garnered astonishment. “What?!” my friends would ask when they recovered from their shock. “No curfew?”

“Nope. Now, you go out and enjoy yourselves.”

My parents taught me a valuable lesson: to build trust, someone must be willing to give trust.

People often say to me, “Jen, trust needs to be earned. Someone needs to show me that he or she is trustworthy.” That’s a common way to approach the trust-building process. But, perhaps that way of thinking has the order reversed.

The way I see it, to get the trust-building ball rolling, someone has to go first, so it might as well be YOU.

fish leaping into bigger fish bowl

Leaders- take the leap of faith to build trust

This applies to all situations in life, but it’s especially important when you are in a leadership position. Leaders have enormous responsibilities – fiscal obligations to their company, ethical considerations and of course, treating their followers well.

When it comes to creating trusting leader-follower relationships, my suggestion to leaders is this: take the leap of faith. YOU go first. Place your trust in your team members that they are competent and they do have the co-worker’s/department’s/organization’s best interest in mind.

What if they proved you wrong? Well, that might happen. You may wonder if I ever abused my parents’ trust. Just once. But the infraction was discussed, consequences were meted out and it never happened again, because I didn’t want to lose that trust.

Telling someone you trust them is a gift. It empowers them to call the shots and helps them grow.

And isn’t that what leadership – whether it’s as a parent, or as a company manager – is all about?


This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Embers of the World blog as Building Trust with a Leap of Faith.

Image credit: designsstock / 123RF Stock Photo

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