Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Job One: Leaders Build Trust
[Three Study Resource Abstracts with Notations by Lloyd Elder, Th.D.]

Why is “developing trust within” being presented
as “job one?” Because that represents my own judgment, and, also
most research sources affirm that trust begins within a person,
with self-understanding and wholeness. This same reality is true of those
of us who live and work in the service of Christ. The local congregation greatly
benefits from such a view of trust. Introducing resources for a continued
study of trust-building is one of the purposes of this set of articles. The
following three abstracts support several of the components of trust-building
presented in these three resource abstracts. Their contribution and redundancy
make contributions to a critical understanding of trust, such as:

  • Remember, developing trust within is “job one,” your first responsibility;
    it is most often termed as being “trustworthy.”
  • Trust is a way of life before, or at least parallel to,
    trust in the practice of leadership. Think in terms of the climate and the
    systems of the congregation as well as your inner experience of its members
    and leaders.
  • Trust may be partially explained by human genetics, that is, passed along
    through your family; it may also be affected by your environment. But it is
    a behavior skill to be developed and practiced.
  • Trust is a key component of servant leadership, even though the precise
    language is not used. In your effort to develop servant leadership in your
    life and ministry, trust is an absolute and worthy ally.
  • Biblical study must be prominent in pursuing authentic trustworthiness,
    and its parallel task of trust-building.
  • It is also a subject for psychological and sociological studies, such as
    those reported here; you may want to glean lessons from these studies and
    apply them to your life and ministry.
  • Leadership studies, as seen in these study resources, examine trust as a
    critical component of the behavior and practice of leaders.
  • The study of trust must involve heart and soul, as well as the power of
    the mind! People have enormous capacity for trustworthiness, for trusting,
    and for growth and enrichment.
  • Trust and trustworthiness are all mixed
    together in the personal, family, social, work, and spiritual conditions;
    by its very nature, trust is no solo performance.
  • So, let’s turn to these three abstracts for an expansion on such themes.
    This series of Library articles on trust-building are intended to benefit
    your Christian ministry leadership.


A. Study Resource Abstract: Prepared (June,
2007) by Lloyd Elder, Th.D.

“Developing and Maintaining
Interpersonal Trust

from Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-Actualization
(6th edition)
by David W. Johnson. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1996 (Chapter 3, pp. 73-103)

David Johnson treats trust and trustworthiness as components of
internal wholeness and healthy relationships–about who you are and what you
do as a person, not primarily as a leader. In chapter 3, Reaching Out
includes “trust” as one essential interpersonal skill–its definition,
development, practices, and personal assessment. Johnson’s book is a most valuable
resource by a practicing, teaching, consulting, and research authority with
more than 300 publications to his credit. Key insights are reported for personal
reflection and application:

  • To develop and maintain good human relationships, interpersonal trust must
    be established; and trust is constantly changing as people interact.
  • Trust is hard and time-consuming to build, but far too easy to destroy–even
    by one destructive act.
  • The key to building and maintaining trust is trustworthiness. Trust exists
    in relationships between persons; trustworthiness exists within a person.
  • When you choose to trust another person, it can lead to gains or losses,
    based on the behavior of the other person; you anticipate gain rather than
  • You are trusting:
    • When you risk consequences by being vulnerable to others.
    • When you are openly self-disclosing your information, ideas, thoughts,
      feelings, and reactions.
    • When you are sharing your resources toward their goal achievement.
  • You are trustworthy:
    • When you are willing to respond to another person’s risk in beneficial
    • When you express unwavering acceptance and high regard for statements.
    • When you recognize and support their strengths and capabilities to achieve.
    • When you express cooperative intention to work toward mutual goals.
  • Trust is established through a sequence of trusting and trustworthy actions:
    • Person A takes a risk by sharing his thoughts, information, conclusions,
      feelings, and reactions to the immediate situation and to Person B.
    • Person B responds with acceptance, support, and cooperation; and reciprocates
      Person A’s openness by sharing his/her own thoughts, information, conclusions,
      feelings, and reactions to the immediate situation and to Person A.

    An alternate way would be the reverse of this Person B to Person A first.

  • Reestablishing trust after it has been broken can be achieved by the same
    process–but with added emphasis on sincere apology, open communication, mutual
    goal setting, and promise keeping.
  • Trusting appropriately: never trusting
    and always trusting are inappropriate. You should have reasonable
    confidence that you will benefit and not be harmed by your risk, and that
    the other person will not exploit your vulnerability. Examples: competitor,
    adversary (hostile to you) or even one given to rumors and gossip.
  • There is a lot to be said for assuming that other people are trustworthy.
    It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    (Adapted from: SkillTrack®
    7.2, Trust-Building


B. Study Resource Abstract: Prepared (June 2007) by Lloyd Elder,

“Trust: Unlock Your Vast
Untapped Potential”

from The Other 90%™: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped
Potential for Life and Leadership
by Robert K. Cooper. New York: Crown Business,

Robert K. Cooper has lectured widely and designed leadership development
programs for nationally recognized business organizations. When he was 14 years
of age his grandfather, Hugh Cooper, Sr., gave him a framed memorabilia, a challenge
and a living example that changed his life henceforward:

“Give the world the best you have and the best will
come back to you.”

1. The Four Keystones of The Other 90%™

That is, every day keep on living up to your full potential. Through
the years Cooper has developed and passed on to others “the other 90%
concept” based on his grandfather’s premise. Human intelligence and spirit
are two of the most amazing creations we know, yet “we use only about
10% of our potential in the course of a lifetime.” Later studies indicate
that we use not one-tenth but one ten-thousandth of our capabilities (p. xvi).

  • Trust: Building and Sustaining Exceptional Relationships
  • Energy: Increasing Your Calm Effectiveness Under Pressure
  • Farsightedness: Creating the Future
  • Nerve: Exceeding Expectations

2. The First of the Four Keystones Is Trust

Trust is expressed in specific daily actions, not just good plans. Cooper provides
cogent insights as a part of the total life experiences and contributions (pp.

  • Be an original–if everyone is doing it, don’t; such was the response of
    Rosa Parks on a bus in 1955; Thomas Edison in deafness and a slow start; and
    Charles Lindbergh as pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis; do something exceptional
    every week. (pp. 3-11)
  • Use your brains–all three of them: in the head (thinking), the gut (reacting),
    and the heart (feeling). (pp. 12-25) You have more hidden intelligence than
    you ever knew.
  • No one has to lose for you to win; free yourself from constant comparisons
    and competition; excel! (pp. 26-36)
  • Be a lighthouse, not a weathervane; rate how you are doing when no one is
    looking; keep demonstrating your values. Be aware of the distinguishing values
    of each important person in your work and life. (pp. 37-44)
  • Dare to trust. (pp. 45-51)
    • Trust is an emotional strength that begins with a feeling of self-worth
      and purpose–a gut feeling of trusting yourself and being trusted by others.
    • We trust others when we feel they really understand us and care about
    • Notice what truly matters to others. Slow down to show that you really
      care. Trust advances one small step at a time.
    • Trusting relationships expand and extend our capabilities–so we must
      risk and affirm trust. Trust enough to be trusted; we must affirm and
      initiate trust. “Among the most essential qualities
      of human spirit are to trust oneself and build trust with others.”
  • Honor the greatness in others–and ask for the recognitions you deserve.
    Acknowledge it genuinely, giving it the honor it deserves. Be specific and
    personal–make it a regular habit. (pp. 52-62)

3. The Other Three Keystones for Unlocking Your Potential

The other three keystones interact with “trust” to expand your
larger leadership and life experience.

  • Second Keystone is Energy–Increasing Your Calm Effectiveness Under
    “Calm energy” is synonymous with the “zone”
    or the natural flow of your life. High levels of calm energy are characterized
    by low muscle tension, optimistic presence of mind, peaceful body feelings,
    and physical stamina. (see pp. 63-131)
  • Third Keystone is Farsightedness: Creating the Future.
    Among other futurist concepts, Cooper admonished leaders to “align your
    life with your biggest dreams”; and, to keep glancing ahead from remembrance
    to current reality to desired results. (see pp. 133-194)
  • Fourth keystone is Nerve–Exceeding Expectations. There
    are catalysts that challenge us to reach deeper, look farther, search harder,
    and discover more ways to make every moment count. Unwanted mistakes and setbacks
    teach us unexpected lessons about dealing with our spirit or the future. “Raise
    a banner” because this is your time, your chance. (See pp. 195-274)

4. Reflection: Your Own Case Study

What great, life-changing “sayings” or concepts have been passed
along to you by your grandfather or others? How have you built your life around
them? Will you use those sayings and this “abstract” to describe
how you will build trust? Cooper affirms a lofty challenge for us all: “The
next frontier is not only in front of you, it is inside you. You have a vast
hidden potential and a destiny beckoning to be lived. So do we all. No one else
can live it in your place.”
(p. xvii)


C. Study Resource Abstract: Prepared (June 2007)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D.

“Trust: Lessons In Search of

from In Search of Honor: Lessons from Workers on How
to Build Trust

by Adele B. Lynn. Belle Vernon, VA: Bajon House Publishing, 1998 (See pp. 3-91)

In Search of Honor addresses the cumulative voice of a
thousand employees of all kinds. It reports the common wisdom and experience
of one thousand everyday workers and becomes a practical philosophy for leaders
who care about people and institutions. Lynn presents four keys “in the
workers’ search for honor.”

The first key, “Trust Comes First” presents four elements
of trust defined by the interviewed employees. Lynn summarizes these as “four
factors that build trust.” Her graphic analogy shows an hour glass with
the sand of these four elements flowing through the glass neck to become

  • Importance (see pp. 7-20): a sense of importance, directed
    at both the work and the people. Each of us wants to believe we make a difference
    in achieving a larger purpose. Attaching importance to a task says: “I
    care about what you do every day. I am happy that you are here to do it. It
    makes a difference; you make a difference.” In concert with attaching
    importance to your people is a mind-set and tone that places you at the bottom
    of the team–not at the top. You must serve your team. The leader must firmly
    believe and express:

    • The tasks that the team is working on are important.
    • Each member of the team is important.
    • The leader is there to serve the team.
  • Touch (see pp. 21-44): not the physical kind, but rather,
    genuinely caring and treating people like human equals despite status. Such
    a touch does not cost money, but it does take time. Nurture the workplace
    spirit: genuine, active listening; fostering a no-blame culture; and a belief
    that your people will come through. People do respond.
  • Gratitude (45-62): expressed, sincere
    gratitude. People want to receive more than pay for their work. They want
    appreciation. A sincere, timely “thanks,” not mixed with criticism,
    makes people: 1) want to do more; 2) feel good about themselves; and 3) feel
    good about the person who delivers the thanks. That’s it: performance, self-esteem,
    and relationship.
  • Contributions (63-92): fair and equal
    contributions in the workplace. The astute leader brings harmony and understanding
    so everyone in the workplace believes everyone is contributing equally. “Equal”
    does not mean the same. It does mean that each has meaningful work that contributes
    to the larger purpose; is guided by clearly stated and consistent expectations
    and values; and is provided mutual respect, resources, coaching, and training
    to do the job expected.

    These are the four elements of building trust; each element can be applied
    to our work as leaders in the service of Christ. Actually, the whole congregation
    should be deeply invested in building nurturing, bonding, working trust.

Close this window 

© 2007; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership