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

Doesn’t “Job Three” infer that there is something
that goes before? Yes it does. We have already described “Job One”
as the practice of building trust within; and, “Job Two” as building
trust with others. Now, the focus of “Job Three” is that leaders
make the most significant contribution to their organizations when they understand
and consistently practice trust in their lives, leadership, and organizations.
This has been demonstrated and reported through research over time and space,
in high and low places.

What about servant leaders in Christian congregations of every
size and makeup? Let me suggest some applications to claim the attention of
those of us seeking to be trustworthy, or faithful, in the biblical language–in
the service of Christ:

  • The congregational leader developing trust within does not,
    and should not, arbitrarily separate that from the building and practicing
    trust in the church place.
  • In the congregation, just as much as in other organizations, trust should
    be the penetrating environment for leaders and members alike.
  • Trust is a relationship, a process, a system, an environment that needs
    the intentional and knowledgeable care of leaders within the congregation.
  • Kouzes and Posner, focusing on “credibility,” have in fact built
    a research case for leadership trust, the way to gain it, the cost of losing
    it, and the persistent demand of people for leaders to deliver. Can we give
    less focus on this in ministry leadership?
  • Zand serves our understanding of “trust” by treating it in the
    same context as he does “power”; the use of power has become a
    large issue for those serving in ministry positions.
  • Covey demonstrates how trust penetrates every element of leadership: the
    person, relationships, the tasks being done and the nature of the organization.
  • Ask your own questions, make your observations, and apply these to the practice
    of trust. I have drawn from these and other resources in developing specific
    guidelines for trust-building.


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

“Credibility: The Foundation
of Leadership”

from CREDIBILITY–How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why
People Demand It

by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pub.,

1. Introductions: The research by these two
acclaimed authorities reported in this book reflects more than a dozen years
of work including national surveys, international case studies, in-depth interview,
and extensive analysis. Look for the lessons and applications for your interpersonal
leadership as a Christian minister. (pp. xx-xxii)

  • Thesis: “Leadership is a relationship.”
    Leadership is a reciprocal relationship between those who choose to lead
    and those who decide to follow. (p. 1)
  • Credibility is about how leaders earn the trust and
    confidence of their constituents. The credibility foundation is built
    brick by brick, over time–it does not come with the job. Leaders and
    constituents alike must “grab our picks and shovels and work to
    repair our interpersonal infrastructure.” (p. xvii and p. 2)
  • Constituents: The two most consistently top concerns
    of executives are improving product quality and enhancing customer service.
    Constituents decide what is superior product and service; they also determine
    if the executive has the credibility meriting conference of leadership
    authority. (pp. xviii-xix) “Until we all, constituents and leaders
    alike, grab our picks and shovels and work to repair our interpersonal
    infrastructure, style will continue to succeed over substance, and technique
    will continue to triumph over truth.”
    (p. 2)
  • “Credibility” and “credit” share the same root
    origin, credo, meaning “I believe,” or “I trust.”
    Do you believe the vision? Do you make the promise? Can you keep your
    word? (p. 13)
2. Four Critical Attributes. A nationwide
survey of 1500 managers produced 225 characteristics and attitudes believed
to be crucial to leadership, of which 3 were far beyond all others: (1) integrity–leaders
are truthful, are trustworthy, have character, have conviction; (2) competence–leaders
are capable, productive, efficient; (3) leadership–leaders are inspiring,
are decisive, provide direction. In two nationwide surveys (1987 and 1993)
of what people most admired in leaders, four crucial attributes stood out:
(1) honesty, (2) forward-looking, (3) inspiring, and (4) competency. (pp.
275-287; 12-26)
  • Honesty is absolutely essential to leadership–that
    a leader worthy of trust will be truthful and ethical.
  • Forward-looking: people expect leaders to have a sense
    of direction and concern for the future; to set the vision and call for
    others to follow.
  • Inspiring: people admire and respect leaders who are
    dynamic, uplifting, enthusiastic, positive, and optimistic–and who communicate
  • Competence: we want to follow those who are capable
    and effective, able to get the job done.
3. Trust and Building Credibility: Of all
the attributes of credibility, there is one that is of greatest importance–being
seen as someone who can be trusted, who has high integrity, and who is honest
and truthful. The credibility check essentially is the question: “Do
I trust this person?” (p. 24)
  • Credibility is mostly about consistency between words and deeds: “They
    do what they say they will do; they practice what they preach; they walk
    the talk.”
  • Leadership credibility is crucial–DWWSWWD— “Do
    what we say we will do.” (p. 47)
  • The credibility-building process includes: (see pp. 49-52)
    • clarity: clarification of the leader’s and
      the constituent’s needs, interests, values, visions, aims, and
      aspirations. “I have a clear idea about . . .”
    • unity: people in an organization must be united
      in a common cause–a community of shared vision, values, direction,
      and principles for the journey.
    • intensity: actions speak louder than words, so
      people act on the values of the organization; resources are allocated
      to succeed; there is a greater consistency between word and action–they
      “keep the faith.”
4. Six disciplines of credibility: Kouzes
and Posner developed extensively their research and analysis into six practices
or disciplines of credibility; they are expounded and illustrated in six chapters,
but summarized in pp. 50-57:
  • Discovering your self. Who are you? What
    do you believe in: What do you stand for?

  • Appreciating constituents. You must also
    develop a deep understanding of the collective values and desires of your

  • Affirming shared values. Credible leaders
    honor the diversity of their many constituencies. They also find a common
    ground for agreement on which everyone can stand.

  • Developing capacity. It is essential
    for leaders to develop continuously the capacity of their members to keep
    their commitments.

  • Serving a purpose. They are servant leaders–not
    self-serving, but other-serving. Credible leaders are the first to do
    what has been agreed to and learned.

  • Sustaining hope. Credible leaders keep
    hope alive. People need more energy and enthusiasm, more inspiration and
    optimism; they have higher aspirations; are also available as a support
    and as a friend; are compassionate; recognize and reward people; to sustain
    hope, be there for the team in times of need.

Reflection: Make your own application of these findings
to specific areas of your ministry. “What people want in a leader
is someone who is trustworthy, is competent, has a vision for the future, and
is dynamic and inspiring.”
But they are increasingly cynical because
their leaders do not live up to these expectations. (p. 47)

(Source: adapted in part from SkillTrack®
Volume 7: Interpersonal Skills: Leading with your Heart


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

"Trust in a Leadership Triad with Knowledge
and Power"

from The Leadership Triad: Knowledge, Trust, and Power (pp. 87-134)
by Dale E. Zand. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997)

“The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust
him, and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show
your distrust.”
–Henry Stimson.

Dale Zand, introducing his leadership triad of knowledge, trust,
and power, acknowledges that each of the three has its place in the practice
of leadership. Beginning his presentation of trust with the above quotation,
Zand provides theoretical and practical treatment of three trust topics in three

  • Trust and the Decision Process
  • Determinants of Trust
  • Laws of Trust
  1. Trust and the Decision Process (pp. 89-105)
  • Trust affects both how leaders make decisions and the quality of their
    decisions. Trust enriches relationships–fostering cooperation, creativity,
    and commitment. Mistrust weakens relationships, bringing to them suspicion
    and deception.
  • Leaders distill their attitudes and impressions into one powerful belief:
    how much they can trust other people.
  • Trust should not be confused with affection; they are not the same. You
    may have affection for but not trust a person.
  • Trust defined: “Trust consists of a willingness to increase
    your vulnerability to another person whose behavior you cannot control,
    in a situation in which your potential benefit is much less than your potential
    loss if the other person abuses your vulnerability.”
    (p. 91)
  • Elements of trust: Leaders express trust, or mistrust,
    through three elements of behavior: how they disclose information, share
    influence, and exercise control.
  • A special model of trust–the trust cycle describes how
    two trusting people work together constructively.

    • When the leader trusts, here is what happens:
    • The leader reveals information, accepts influence, and minimally controls;
    • The other person expects trust and perceives trust;.
    • That person also reveals information, accepts influence, and minimally
    • The leader perceives trust and confirms expectations.
  • The trust process, unfortunately, can operate destructively
    when two people mistrust each other.

  • The effects of trust: Trust frees people
    to be open, lifting relationships to new heights of achievements; however,
    mistrust shrivels people.

    • Mistrust creates social uncertainty and complicates decision making.
    • Trust reduces social uncertainty and contributes to creativity, goals,
      and intentions.
  • Awareness of trust: Based on extended research,
    The Conrad Study shows that high-trust groups are more
    likely than low-trust groups to communicate relevant ideas and feelings,
    and to have greater motivation to implement decisions.
  1. Determinants of Trust (pp. 106-121)
  • Durable factors of trust. Personality and training are
    so much a part of us that people have difficulty understanding the connection.
  • Personality, rooted in early experiences, influences,
    and attitudes, is an underlying factor that inclines a leader to be trusting
    or mistrusting.
  • Training determines trust and mistrust. It is important
    that leaders understand how their particular training has oriented them
    with regard to trust or mistrust (such as attorneys, scientists). Lee Iacocca
    was comfortable with trusting; Harold Geneen was not.
  • Accessible factors–Trust depends on several factors
    in addition to personality and training, including:

    • Competence is a beginning, critical component of
      trust, but not that alone. People are willing to trust competent leaders,
      but trust is task-specific.
    • Openness is a gateway to trust, enabling giving and
      getting rapid and direct disclosure of relevant information.
    • Supportiveness also affects trust. Effective leaders
      understand and employ three components of supportiveness that build
      trust: acceptance, tolerance for disagreement, and constructive use
      of people’s openness. People trust leaders who accept them as they are.
    • Reward systems. Effective leaders understand that
      a company’s reward system can encourage trust or mistrust. A collaborative,
      integrative, win-win reward system encourages trust.
    • Intentions. People’s beliefs about a leader’s intention
      have a powerful influence on trust; people trust leaders whom they believe
      have good intentions.
  1. Laws of Trust (pp. 122-134)
    There are regularities, or reliable predictions, in the trust systems that
    we call laws of trust; a particular outcome is likely if leaders do not
    change the level of trust. Briefly stated, the “laws of trust.”
  • Mistrust drives out trust; does not reciprocate
    acts of trust from others.
  • Trust increases cohesion: holds people
    together; means that people have confidence that they can rely on each other.
  • Mistrusting groups self-destruct: as a corollary, when
    members mistrust each other, they repel and separate, turn against each
    other, pursue their own interests.
  • Trust stimulates productivity; it gives people confidence
    that they can depend on each other to define and achieve appropriate goals;
    also encourages people to think of productivity with satisfaction and joy.
  • Mistrust depresses productivity: people who mistrust
    do not believe they can depend on each other; they conceal and secretly
    pursue their own interests; obstruct creativity; distort information, interpretations,
    and decision making.
  • Rapid growth masks mistrust: as sales and profits increase,
    leaders seek expedient solutions, misshape relationships, and encourage
    short-term thinking.
  • Increasing trust: effective leaders deal with a paradox–minimal
    trust in order to improve trustability.
    • Through integrated reward systems.
    • Through reciprocal increases in trust.
    • Through relationship analysis; reviewing how they can increase trust.


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

“Trust According to Stephen R. Covey”
from Principle-Centered Leadership
by Stephen R. Covey (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc./Fireside Edition,

“Trust” has a unique and central role inside Stephen
Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership. Although “trust” is
not in the book title, it permeates the thesis and all four levels or principles
for life and leadership.

This abstract intends primarily to show how trust is integral
to so many of his leadership and life concepts. A working thesis affirms: “Trust–or
the lack of it–is at the root of success or failure in relationship and in
the bottom-line results of business, industry, education, and government.”

(p. 31)

  1. Covey’s Principle Thesis
    Principle-centered leadership is a new paradigm, a shift in focusing
    not just on another map, but on a new moral compass. With universal principles
    at the center, “leaders can expect to transform their organizations
    and their people by communicating vision, clarifying purposes, making behavior
    congruent with belief, and aligning procedures with principles, roles, and
    Covey endorses the idea, “I teach them correct
    principles, and they govern themselves.”
    (p. 69) Even his book
    cover conveys this in the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed
    him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

  2. Trust: Principles and Behavior
    Principles are proven, enduring guidelines for effective human conduct. There
    are universal “true north” principles taught by the six major
    religions as well as found in a global consensus: “walk your talk”;
    “you reap what you sow”; “actions are more important than
    words.” Under the topic of moral compassing, Covey reports a universal
    belief in fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, quality
    service, and patience. (pp. 94-95)

      [For those of us within the Christian faith, relationship to Christ and
      the guidance of Holy Scripture form a foundation for principled living
      and leadership.–Lloyd Elder]

In addition to his four levels/principles, Covey also deals extensively
with attitudes, skills, and strategies for creating and maintaining trustful
relationships with other people. (pp. 29-30)

  1. Four Levels, Four Principles (pp. 28-30)
    Covey presents his principle philosophy in a graphic of four concentric
    circles, starting at the very center:

Added to principles, he also deals with attitudes, skills, and strategies
for creating and maintaining trustful relationships with other people. (pp.
29-30) Continuous improvement is needed at all four levels; neglect of one
will have a negative impact on the other three.

  • Level One: Trustworthiness at the Personal Level
    Trustworthiness, your relationship with yourself, is based on both
    character (integrity)–what you are as a person; and on
    competence–what you can do. Without meaningful, ongoing
    professional development, there is little trustworthiness or trust; you
    can’t really go on to other levels without giving attention to level one.
  • Level Two: Trust at the Interpersonal Level
    Trustworthiness is the foundation of trust in your relationships
    and interactions with others.

    “Trust is the emotional bank account
    between two people that enables them to have a win-win performance agreement,
    enjoy clear communication, empathy, synergy, and productive interdependency.”
    (p. 31)

  • Level Three: Empowerment at
    the Management Level

    In your responsibility to get the job done with others, trust is expressing
    and expecting character and competence in relating and working. If you have
    no, or low trust, how are you going to manage people? With trust, you have
    mutual participation. Without it, you have to control people. (p. 155)
  • Level Four: Alignment at the Organizational Level
    This principle relates your need to organize people, to recruit, train,
    and compensate them; to build teams and solve problems; and to create aligned
    structures, strategies, and systems. (p. 31) What does a high trust organization
    look like? Flat, flexible. Extremely large span of control. Self-supervision
    in doing their jobs. High commitment and empowered people in the workplace.
  1. Trust and Empowerment
    A closing concept from Covey: you can’t have empowerment without
    first having trust. If you don’t trust people you are working with, then
    you must use control rather than empowerment. Aligned organizations serve
    to help the individual be productive and effective. (p. 65) The high-trust
    culture in which win-win can succeed is created by people of integrity,
    maturity, and “abundance mentality.” (p. 215)

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© 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