The Foundation of Leadership: Trust

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” —Stephen Covey

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The most important leadership characteristic is the ability to inspire trust. Without it, teams will never reach their full potential and relationships will suffer. As a leader you must be intentional about building trust in your organization. Trust has to be a two-way street. Set the example; be trustworthy yourself and show others that you trust them. A culture of trust boosts motivation, increases job satisfaction, and results in greater productivity. So, how do you build a foundation of trust?

Speak freely

Frederick Douglass said, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” Employees, customers, and suppliers should know that they are welcome to speak freely with you. This will result in the sharing information more readily. What valuable information might you miss out on if others do not trust that they can speak freely with you? Provide a safe space where discussion, debate, and problem-solving can happen. Build employee confidence in knowing that you have their best interests at heart. And, always communicate directly with employees; don’t let them hear it from someone else first.

Act without fear

Charles Stanley explained, “Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation.” Employees must know that you trust them to make the right decision and must feel comfortable enough to act without fear. When you develop a solid foundation of trust in your organization, employees will move outside of their comfort zones, feel confident exploring new ideas, will act freely, and be more willing to take on risk. Instill the courage in your employees that will encourage them to make the decisions and share the new ideas that will continue to move your organization forward.

Control over work

Margaret Wheatley tells us, “Even though worker capacity and motivation are destroyed when leaders choose power over productivity, it appears that bosses would rather be in control than have the organization work well.” Pixar is so successful because they have developed a culture that believes that everyone possesses a slice of genius. Your employees have skills and knowledge specific to their work; seek their input in areas where they have the knowledge and experience you are lacking. Delegate as much responsibility and control over tasks and projects as possible to employees and teams. Respect and value the diversity of ideas that employees have to offer. Show that you trust them to have control over their work and then reward great ideas and innovation.

Build the Foundation

Trust builds a strong foundation of leadership that is able to stand the test of time. This foundation supports motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity. As a leader, you must create a culture where employees can speak freely, act without fear, and have control over their own work. Trust begins with you; start building the foundation.

© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli

Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


Author: lizstincelli

I am Liz Stincelli and I am passionate about recognizing, inspiring, and igniting the leader in each of us. I am the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where I specialize in helping management teams learn new ways of looking at problems and finding new approaches to discovering solutions. I hold a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. I offer 20+ years of pro-active operations management, problem-solving, team-building, human resources, accounting, and business administration experience in a variety of industries. I serve on the Editorial Review Board for the Independent Journal of Management and Production and the Journal of Managerial Psychology. I have also been a guest lecturer at the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business Westminster College. You can learn more about me by reading my blog here at: or Connect with me on Twitter @infinitestin, on Google+, and on LinkedIn. You can contact me by email at

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