Building Trust as a Leader

Seth Godin is quoted as saying, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust.  Then you can worry about the rest.” For the church leader the saying should probably go something more like “Pray. Earn trust. Pray. Earn Trust. Pray. Earn trust.”  Either way, the reality is, if you are trying to lead people somewhere one the first things you are going to need do is earn their trust.  Even before people can be sold on the vision and goal, they are going to size you up and decide whether you are someone that merits being listened to.  If you don’t earn their trust, they will quickly move on.


The trouble is that many want-to-be leaders never earn the peoples trust, or if they do manage to earn it they squander it away.  They may have great ideas and a vision of accomplishing something great, but they cannot earn and keep the trust of the people long enough to build a team to accomplish the goal.  I am sure there are many ways that trust is earned and kept but here are but four necessities for building trust as I see it:

  1. Love people.  Hear what is going on in the persons life.  Whether this is a volunteer, or a paid employee, if you want them to follow and sacrifice for the cause then they are going to have to know that you care about them.  This means asking questions about their lives, their families, their hobbies and lives outside church.  This means praying for them.   Not just saying you are going to pray for them but to actually do it, and even pray with them. This means sending birthday, thank you and encouragement cards.  This means spending time with them outside their ministry and the church.  To build trust you need to know what is going on in a person’s life, but you also need to hear about what is going on in their job or ministry.  You need to take the time to listen to what they are enjoying and are passionate about so you can allow them to do more of that.  They need to know that you care enough to listen to their frustrations, and if possible will fix the issues they are facing.  If people believe that they they are just a cog in machine that you don’t care about, they will quit.  As Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  If people do not believe you care they will move on.
  2. Add value.  Showing concern and knowing what is going on in peoples lives and ministries is not enough to build true trust.  Building trust with those that follow you also requires adding value.   Adding value happens when you appreciate them and let them know that what they are doing is having an impact.  You value others when you solicit and listen to their opinions because you view them as a valuable member of the team.  It happens when you train them so they can do their job better and more effectively.  It even happens when you hold them accountable, pointing out areas that they need to grow in order to be more effective.  In general people want to grow and do better.  If you help people grow in their ministry and in their lives they will trust you more.
  3. Follow Through.  Nothing is worse that saying you are going to help someone, that you are going to deliver something, and then fail to follow through with what you promise.  Matthew 5:37 “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’  This means following through on the small things.  If you say you are going to do something for someone, write it down so you won’t forget about it, and then do it.  Return your phone calls and emails in a timely manner.  Don’t miss appointments.  And when you do overcommit and can’t come through, or simply forget about something, fess up and apologize.  Follow-through isn’t just about the small things though, it’s also about the big things.  It means not giving up when things get tough.  People’s respect and trust in you will grow if you weather a storm or two with them and not abandon ship the first time things get tough.
  4. Have integrity.  Leaders that build and keep trust have integrity in all areas of there life.  We all probably know of have heard of leader that maybe was leading well for a while, but ultimately lost all credibility when some aspect of their true character was revealed.  Leaders that last a lifetime have integrity in all areas of their life.  For the church leader this includes their marriage, family, finances, attitude, the language we use, the TV shows and and movies we watch and so much more.  It is certainly more than just their public life that people see on Sunday. True integrity is doing what you should, even when you know that no one is looking.  People will not believe in you if there are inconsistencies in your life, and they will stop trusting you if something comes to light that you have been hiding.

Trust is what allows leaders to lead.  Without trust people simply will not follow.  As Stephan Covey states, “Trust is the glue of life…It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  The glue that allows a leader to lead people is trust.  If you want people to follow you then you must build trust with them.

What am I missing?  How else do leaders build the trust that is necessary to be an effective leader?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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