What Is Trust-Centered Leadership?

As its name implies, Trust-Centered Leadership® puts trust-building at the heart of the strategic agenda.

Trust-Centered Leadership® weighs every decision, every action, and every initiative against the goal of maximizing trust:

  • First, maximizing the trust the organization has in its leaders.
  • Then maximizing a culture of trust across the entire organization.
  • And third, maximizing the trust of both internal and external customers.

To achieve these goals, Trust-Centered Leadership® pursues "trust-friendliness" in four critical arenas, which we might label Climate, Character, Conduct, and Culture.

1. A Climate Conducive to Trust. For trust to prosper, the right atmosphere is required. Responsibility for creating this atmosphere devolves on us as leaders, for leadership always has the critical task of setting the organization’s tone. Leaders must actively promote specific qualities in their organizational climate if trust is to find a receptive atmosphere. To be specific, it must be a climate in which people feel safe, informed, respected, valued, and understood.

2. Character that Fosters Trust. Trust does not endure in the absence of trustworthy character. No one can build a Trust-Bonded Organization™ without principled players and trustworthy leaders. Through our example as leaders we set the mark for character in our organization. After all, we cannot expect people to live up to standards which we do not model ourselves. For people to grant us unqualified trust, they must see exemplary character in us. Then, and only then, will we have the credibility to challenge broader issues of character within the group.

3. Conduct that Allows Trust to Flourish. In a business context, conduct is the single greatest determinant of trust. Conduct is the medium through which climate, character, and culture reveal themselves. At the same time, conduct also feeds back into corporate climate and culture to recolor and remold them. As a leader your primary mechanisms for establishing a climate and culture of trust are the standards of conduct that you mandate, model, sanction, encourage, and enforce.

4. A Culture that Is Purposeful About Promoting Trust. "Trust-friendliness," even if it permeates climate, character, and conduct, is no assurance that a culture of trust actually exists, certainly not one strong enough to weather the demands of today’s relentless competitive pace. A culture of trust (to trace the word "culture" back to its Latin roots) must be purposively and intentionally "cultivated," not just left to emerge on its own. For Trust-Centered Leadership®, creating a culture of trust is a strategic objective second to none.

Excerpted from Leadership and the Power of Trust: Creating a High-Trust, Peak-Performance Organization by Dr. Mike Armour