How Can You Become a Trustworthy Leader?

5 min read
7 June 2024

As the 2024 American presidential race heats up, the political landscape again sees Joe Biden and Donald Trump vying for the highest office. The nation is divided, with levels of trust in America sitting around 40 (Global Index around 51). The last four years have seen an erosion of trust fueled by polarized rhetoric and significant socio-political events. Trust in institutions, including the government, has taken a hit, making it a critical issue in leadership discussions today.

This situation is not unique to politics; it reflects a broader challenge in all leadership domains. Just as a lack of trust can cripple a government, it can also undermine the effectiveness of leaders in businesses and organizations. In his famous publication, American author Patrick Lencioni identifies the number one dysfunction of a team as the lack of trust. But how does one become a trustworthy leader amidst such pervasive scepticism?

Principles for Becoming a Trusted Leader

Below are some key principles and practices that will guide you to becoming a respected and trusted leader.

Lead by Example

Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to build trust. This means demonstrating the behaviours and attitudes you expect from your team. You must embody these qualities if you want your team to be punctual, diligent, and ethical. Consistency between your words and actions shows your team that you are reliable and trustworthy.

Communicate Transparently

Transparent communication is critical to building trust. This means being open and honest about both the positives and negatives. Share information freely, provide updates on important decisions, and be upfront about challenges and setbacks. When your team feels informed and in the loop, they are more likely to trust your leadership.

Show Empathy and Support

Empathy is essential for trust. Understand and acknowledge the feelings and perspectives of your team members. Show that you care about their well-being and will support them through personal and professional challenges. This creates a sense of psychological safety, making team members feel valued and understood.

Be Consistent

Consistency is crucial in building trust. Make sure your actions align with your promises and principles. Avoid favouritism and ensure that your decisions are fair and consistent. When team members know what to expect from you, they are more likely to trust your leadership.

Empower Your Team

Trustworthy leaders empower their teams by giving them autonomy and encouraging professional growth. Trust your team members to make decisions and take ownership of their work. Provide opportunities for them to develop their skills and advance in their careers. Empowering your team shows you have confidence in their abilities, which builds their trust in you.

Take Responsibility

A trustworthy leader takes responsibility for their actions and decisions. If something goes wrong, own up to it and make it right. Avoid shifting blame or making excuses. Taking responsibility demonstrates integrity and accountability, which are essential for building trust.

Be Approachable and Accessible

Being approachable and accessible helps build trust by creating an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns. Make an effort to be available for your team, listen to their feedback, and address their issues promptly. This shows that you value their input and are committed to their success.

Show Integrity

Integrity is a key component of trustworthiness. Always act by your values and principles, even when it's difficult. Avoid engaging in dishonest or unethical behaviour, and hold yourself to the highest standards of conduct. When your team sees that you have strong moral principles, they are more likely to trust you.

Build Relationships

Building strong relationships with your team members helps create a foundation of trust. Take the time to get to know them, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and build a rapport. Strong relationships foster mutual respect and trust, essential for effective leadership.

Demonstrate Competence

Trustworthy leaders demonstrate competence in their roles. Stay informed about industry trends, continuously develop your skills, and strive for excellence in your work. When your team sees that you are knowledgeable and capable, they are more likely to trust your judgment and leadership.

The Role of Oxytocin in Building Trust

One of the chemicals that fosters a sense of trust among humans is oxytocin. Often referred to as the "love hormone" or "trust hormone," oxytocin plays a crucial role in social bonding and trust. It is released in the brain during physical touch, positive social interactions, and even when people feel a sense of connection and empathy.

Promoting Oxytocin Production

  1. Positive Social Interactions: Engage in positive social interactions with your team. Simple gestures like a handshake, a pat on the back, or even a warm smile can help promote the release of oxytocin.

  2. Active Listening: Show genuine interest in your team members' concerns and ideas. Active listening fosters a sense of connection and understanding, which can stimulate oxytocin production.

  3. Supportive Environment: Create a supportive and collaborative work environment. When team members feel supported and valued, oxytocin levels can increase, enhancing trust and cooperation.

  4. Celebrate Successes: Celebrate team successes and milestones. Recognizing achievements and expressing gratitude can strengthen social bonds and boost oxytocin levels.

  5. Team-Building Activities: Organize team-building activities that promote cooperation and bonding. Activities that involve physical touch, like team sports or group exercises, can also enhance oxytocin production.

Promoting trust within a team requires deliberate effort, a combination of behavioural strategies, and understanding the underlying biological factors that influence trust. Oxytocin plays a vital role in fostering trust and social bonding. By creating environments and opportunities that enhance the production of oxytocin, leaders can further strengthen the trust within their teams.

Practical Steps to Enhance Trustworthiness

  1. Regular Feedback: Implement regular feedback sessions to understand and address your team’s concerns and ideas. This shows that you value their input and are committed to continuous improvement.

  2. Professional Development: Encourage and support professional development opportunities for your team. This helps them grow and shows that you are invested in their future.

  3. Conflict Resolution: Address conflicts promptly and fairly. Use these opportunities to demonstrate your commitment to fairness and a positive work environment.

  4. Transparency in Decision-Making: Involve your team in the decision-making process whenever possible. This fosters a sense of ownership and trust in the decisions being made.

  5. Recognition and Appreciation: Regularly recognize and appreciate your team's efforts and achievements. This builds morale and shows that you value their contributions.

  6. Consistency in Policies: Ensure policies and procedures are applied consistently across the board. This eliminates perceptions of favouritism and builds trust in your leadership's fairness.

  7. Lead with Humility: Admit when you don’t have all the answers and be open to learning from others. This humility can enhance trust, showing you value your team's knowledge and expertise.

Becoming a trustworthy leader is not an overnight process. It requires continuous effort, self-awareness, and a commitment to integrity, transparency, empathy, and consistency. By embodying these qualities and taking practical steps to enhance trust, you can build a strong foundation of trust with your team, leading to a more collaborative, productive, and positive work environment. Understanding and leveraging the role of oxytocin can further enhance your efforts to build and maintain trust within your team.

New call-to-action


  1. Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2017). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. Jossey-Bass.
  2. Covey, S. M. R. (2006). The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything. Free Press.
  3. Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. Jossey-Bass.
  4. Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. Random House.
  5. Maxwell, J. C. (2013). The 5 levels of leadership: Proven steps to maximize your potential. Center Street.
  6. Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The fearless organization: Creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. Wiley.
  7. George, B. (2007). True north: Discover your authentic leadership. Jossey-Bass.
  8. Harvard Business Review. (2015). HBR's 10 must reads on leadership. Harvard Business Review Press.
  9. Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap...and others don't. HarperBusiness.
  10. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bantam Books.
  11. Zak, P. J. (2012). The moral molecule: How trust works. Dutton.
  12. Young, L. J., & Wang, Z. (2004). The neurobiology of pair bonding. Nature Neuroscience.

Subscribe by email

Get Email Notifications

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think