Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Trusting: Reaching Out with

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack®
Vol. 7.2 – Trust-Building

1. “Trusting” is Reaching Out with Others

To trust others and to start a trusting relationship with others is a critical
step in the essential task of trust-building. The first step to trust-building
is to be trustworthy, then to be a trusting person. “Trust and trusting”
are used most often in this article as a verb form, not an adjective or noun.
For example we often make such statements as: “I trust you with my
life.” “I trust you with this confidential information.” “I
am trusting you to finish this project on time and within budget.” “I
trust our personal relationship to be mutually satisfactory.”

“Trusting with others” expresses the reciprocal nature
of trusting; it is not a lonely, solo, one-way practice. The emphasis, however,
is on your own trusting role and practice. Do you trust others, really trust
them? Or have you become a “practicing cynic,” trusting no one about
anything? I don’t think so, but we all can improve and develop. You start
by trusting God with your life and leadership, your calling, and your family.
Trusting is to have open and honest exposure of yourself to others; such trusting
makes you vulnerable to others, but taking the risk and expecting that it will
be mutually beneficial. Trusting includes trusting God, trusting yourself, trusting
others, and trusting natural and social processes. (See the trusting practices
and behaviors in this article.)

Dictionaries/Glossary–to trust, trusting
The verb forms of trust are used extensively in our contemporary language, such

  • to believe, believe in, to have faith, to trust in God;
  • to have confidence in the truthfulness of a person;
  • to place trust or confidence in: bank on, believe in, count on, depend
    on, reckon on, rely on;
  • to hope, to expect confidently something yet in the future;
  • to entrust, to put in the charge of another for care, use, or performance:
    commend, commit, confide, consign, give over, hand over, relegate, turn over;
  • to give credit to a person for goods or services, relying on a promise
    of payment.
  • Antonyms: to disbelieve, to distrust, to mistrust.

2. Learning about Trusting from Holy Scripture

We will primarily focus on the verb form “pisteuo” used in the
New Testament. It is within the family of Greek words which clearly and extensively
carry the meaning “to trust, trusting, and trustworthy (from SL#74):

  • pisteuo– to believe, to trust, to
    have faith, to have confidence
  • “pistis”– faithfulness, reliability; or, trust, confidence,
  • “pistos”– trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring
    trust or faith
  • “pistoõ” – to show oneself faithful, trustworthy;
    to prove oneself trustworthy; to feel confidence, to be convinced

“Trust” as a verb emphasizes the active nature of “trust
in many NT texts, for example:

  • Luke 16:10-11: “Whoever
    can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much and whoever
    is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you
    have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with
    true riches.”

  • John 14:1: “Do not let
    your hearts be troubled. ‘Trust in God; trust also in me.’”

  • Romans 10:8-10: “Believing” or “trusting”
    in Christ is reaching out to Him for a redemptive, connecting experience between
    people and the Lord’s salvation:
    “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus
    is Lord,’ and believe [trust] in your heart that God raised him from
    the dead, you will be saved.”
    (v. 9)

  • 1 Corinthians 4:2: “Now
    it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful

    Zondervan Commentary: “Those entrusted with” (oikonomous–house
    stewards) refers to a position often held by a slave (Joseph, Gen. 39:2-19),
    who managed the affairs of the household entrusted to him. “The secret
    things of God” indicates those mysteries of salvation God has revealed
    in his Word (Rom 16:25; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 4; 1Tim 3:16. These truths of the cross
    have been entrusted to Christian workers to be carefully used and guarded.
    As subordinate servants of Christ, they have no right of authority over those
    truths, but minister them in Christ’s name to God’s people.

  • 2 Corinthians 8:16-17: Without using the term itself, the
    Apostle Paul expressed his complete trust, his confidence in his associate
    in ministry, Titus: “I thank God, who put
    into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only
    welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his
    own initiative.”

    Zondervan Commentary: Although Titus’s affection for the Corinthians
    naturally developed as a result of his positive interaction with them (7:13-15),
    Paul could trace Titus’s keen interest in their welfare to the providential
    working of God (v. 16). Nothing could be more reassuring to the Corinthians
    than to know that the devotion and concern for them shared by Paul and Titus
    were simply a reflection of God’s own affection for them.

  • Proverbs. 3:5-6: “Trust
    in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in
    all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

    Zondervan Commentary: Several specific instructions compose this general
    admonition to be faithful. The first is to trust in the Lord and not in oneself,
    because he grants success. Batah (“trust,” v. 5) carries
    the force of relying on someone for security; the confidence is to be in the
    Lord and not in human understanding. The call is for a trust characterized
    by total commitment-“with all your heart” (v. 5), “in all
    your ways” (v. 6).

3. Learning about Trusting from Contemporary Leaders

  • Trust is Competence and Caring: Peter Scholtes claims,
    in its briefest form that trust is the converging of two beliefs. “When
    I believe that you are competent (capable) and that you genuinely care about
    me, I will trust you. Neither competence nor caring alone can serve as the
    basis of trust. It takes both.”
    The Leader’s Handbook,
    pp. 43-44

  • Trusting from Character and Competence: Stephen Covey
    ties trusting to trustworthiness: “Trustworthiness (character and
    competence) 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

  • Trusting Without Control: Dale Zand, identifies three
    elements of behavior through which people most often express trust, or distrust:
    information, influence and control. He defines “trust” as follows:
    “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.”
    The Leadership Triad,
    p. 91

  • Trusting as Emotional Strength: “Trust is an
    emotional strength that begins with a feeling of self-worth and purpose that
    we’re called to extend outward to others
    (p.47). Trusting relationships
    expand and extend our capabilities in so many ways that we can’t afford
    to just wait for others to show that they are trustworthy, we must act deliberately
    to initiate and affirm trust
    (p. 50).” –from The Other 90%,

  • Trust as Reciprocal Faith: Kiniki and Kreitner, in their
    college textbook, describe trust as a key ingredient of teamwork: “Trust
    is defined as reciprocal faith in others’ intention and behavior; the
    give-and-take of trust. In short we tend to give what we get: trust begets
    trust; distrust begets distrust.”
    Organizational Behavior,
    p. 210

  • Disclosing, Openness and Sharing: Writing as a social
    psychologist, Johnson reports: “You trust when you are willing to
    risk beneficial or harmful consequences by making yourself vulnerable to other
    people. More specifically, you are trusting when you are self-disclosing
    and willing to be openly accepting and supportive of others. Openness
    is the sharing of information, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and reactions to
    the issue being discussed. Sharing is the offering of your
    resources to other people in order to help them achieve their goals.”
    –David W. Johnson, Reaching Out, p. 76

  • Lincoln and Trusting Leadership: Biographer Donald Phillips
    extracts many lessons in Lincoln on Leadership, including “Honest
    Abe” as a trusting leader: “Abraham Lincoln
    listened, paid attention, and established trust. He worked
    hard at forging strong relationships with all of his subordinates, especially
    the members of his cabinet and his commanding generals. In some cases the
    resident overcame intense negative feeling toward him on the part of a few
    (p. 28). . . . Lincoln was a kind and caring human being.
    But people are much more likely to trust a leader if they know he is compassionate
    and forgiving of mistakes. And trust, of course, is the essential
    building block for successful relationships.”

4. Growing in Your Trusting Others

Is there a process, an intentional way to become more trusting as you reach
out to others? Yes, and it begins with you and earlier than you might think.
This, and other SL articles, provides assessment and educational
practices you can take as you grow in trusting yourself and others, such as:

  • Develop and practice guidelines for learning to trust other people; and
    trusting yourself. Think about “trusting” as a critical ingredient
    of every part of your life.
  • Be aware that the degree to which you are a trusting person is greatly
    influenced by: 1) your early life experiences involving trust; 2) your emotional
    responses and decisions about those experiences; 3) the beneficial or harmful
    outcomes of extending your trust to others; and, 4) what you were repeatedly
    told about by others.
  • Recognize that your earlier level and experience of trust is not necessarily
    suitable or valid for your adult relationships and productive work.
  • Pay close attention to your current behavior and leadership style, how
    these effect others: your actions, words, tones, gestures, posture, and your
    use of power. Ask yourself if earlier trusting patterns are still too much
  • Become more aware of your feelings during interaction with others; how
    you act on your feelings; and what lessons for change do you learn about your
    degree of trusting.
  • Seek to identify any continuing behavior that may prevent your trusting
    others. Does it spring out of earlier patterns? Have your talked this over
    with another nonjudgmental person with a view to breaking down old barriers?
  • Make a day-by-day practice of trusting; often patterns of behavior create
    feelings and responses of mutual trust, and break down any of life’s
    earlier, negative influences.
    (selected concepts above are adapted from Shea’s Building Trust,

5. Trusting Practices for Building Trust

  • Place your complete trust and confidence in God’s power to save
    you and to keep you in His sovereign care in all the events and issues of
    life and leadership.
    Move to another ministry position or stay where
    you are. Change career tracks, become a social change agent. Develop a new
    skill; or launch into a degree training program. Nurture and grow in that
    trusting relationship by specific acts of trust, dependence, and expectancy.

    Proverbs. 3:5-6: “Trust
    in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
    in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

  • Enter into each service task trusting that He will guide and empower
    you to perform faithfully in your service to Him.
    Move to another
    ministry position or stay where you are; or even change career tracks. Develop
    a new skill; or launch into a degree training program. Turn to the disciplines
    of following Christ for guidance in trusting: prayer, Holy Scripture, example
    of Christ, presence of the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 1:8: “But you
    will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be
    my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends
    of the earth.”

  • Trust yourself and act with confidence; this is founded on the
    gifts and presence of God.
    However, do not let unfounded confidence
    replace worthy effort and performance.
  • 2 Tim. 1:12: “Yet I am
    not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed [trusted], and am convinced
    that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

    2 Cor. 5:7: “We live [walk]
    by faith [trusting], not by sight.”

  • Trust the other person first, and then again and again;
    that is a valid practice in any relationship, but especially if you are in
    a leadership position. Build value and self-esteem in others. When you extend
    trust, it encourages others in the congregation or on your team to do the

  • It is required of leaders to create a climate of trusting;
    the leader’s example of trusting is contagious, well worth the risk
    and effort. This takes day-by-day, intentional, mutual actions of members
    and leaders. Expressing trust increases group cohesion among its members.

  • Be willing to risk beneficial or harmful consequences in relating
    to others;
    the nature of trust is that you have little or no control
    over the response of others. Trust others with your hopes and dreams; with
    your doubts and fears; with your expectations of the relationship.

  • Make yourself vulnerable to others; do not always appear
    to be above hurt, loss, or disappointment; appear as vulnerable because, in
    fact, you are.

  • Disclose your true feelings and reactions; when you do
    so as authentic trusting, it invites the other person to do so, thereby building
    trust within the congregation.

  • Communicate accurate, timely, and significant information;
    you are trusting when you share information, ideas, thoughts, and resources
    to help others achieve their goals.

  • Trusting others is expressed as you perform on-going tasks in the
    decision-making, managing change, problem-solving,
    delegation, team-building, etc.

  • Know when to trust, and when reasonable evidence is against trusting.
    Trust is not fickle, nor is it weak. It is a mistake never to trust,
    creating a cycle of cynicism about yourself and others. But when trust is
    extended again and again and is refused or abused, change trusting to include
    clear expectations with consequences; or establish limited trust or even a
    time-out on trust until there is a trusting response. Try this: “I
    want you to teach this class, but I’m asking ____to teach for the next
    three months, so that you can serve as a member in the class while you re-evaluate
    your teaching role.”

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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