Monday, July 04, 2011


I have recently been training some new Vice-Presidents in the investment banking industry. It was fascinating to listen to the issues that these young leaders face today. Given the events of the last 4 years, it is not unnatural that their biggest concern was one of the oldest leadership challenges – how to build trust.  Trust in their industry again of course but fundamentally trust in them as a leader of others.

This is one of the great leadership qualities, a point reinforced to me when I was interviewing successful leaders for my recent book. It is perhaps best expressed in this quote from one of those leaders “People have to know that they can trust you and you have to, through your relationships with them, let them know you can be trusted and you will deliver.”

Trust is the bedrock of good leadership. Just consider what can happen when it is absent or broken. Leaders with no trust can become coercive, bullying people to conform. Power on these terms is unpleasant and counterproductive in business; in world politics it can mean violence and bloodshed as we are seeing daily in other countries right now.

Across all cultures trust is a product of what you do and how you behave. Just as being fit is an outcome of a good exercise regime, so trust is an outcome of a good leadership regime. Stick to your regime, be trustworthy and you will earn the trust of others.

The industry leaders I interviewed identified three key values that need to be demonstrated to build trust: Respect, Honesty and Integrity. Respect for other peoples’ views and values, honesty coupled with transparency, integrity in your own words, behaviours and actions. Consistently behaving in this way builds respect and trust from others. It also builds self trust and self confidence. People who command high trust, such as Nelson Mandela for example, are listened to and believed. They attract followers and even their opponents respect them. 

I find when working with leaders that the quickest way for them to build trust is to focus on matching what they say with what they do. I advised my new VPs to express these three key values in their daily interactions. They went away thinking about what they could do to show the values in action and a commitment to reflect on the impact of their actions. Practice will help them to embed these values in their subconscious, enabling them to command the trust and respect of those around them. I’m really looking forward to seeing their development over the coming months.

The ability to build and sustain trust brings many benefits and should be refined throughout your leadership journey. Whatever your leadership role, perhaps you would like to consider what more you could do to live the values of respect, honesty and integrity, so you can benefit from higher trust levels.

Rosie Miller
International Executive Coach
Maximising Your Return on People

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