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What you should know about building trust as a leader

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship. When it comes to leadership, trust is one of the most important things we can build to help our team succeed. Trust is earned, and developing trust takes time. As a leader, being trustworthy means your team members feel comfortable confiding in you and asking for your support when they need it. Building trust with your employees is essential for a successful team. When people trust you, they are more likely to open up and share their thoughts with you, allowing you insights into different perspectives and ideas. This enables a safe space for open communication within an organization where everyone feels heard, valued, and part of the team.

We all know good leadership begins with trust, so we’re not going to go over why trust is important but rather focus on how to build trust. While trust isn’t something that can be built overnight, there are tangible steps you can take as a leader to foster trust in your organization. According to Harvard Business Publishing, building trust starts with “creating a safe environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks.” Trust cannot happen if your employees do not feel psychologically safe to voice their ideas and concerns, so it is especially important that leaders actively foster psychologically safe work environments. Fostering an environment of trust takes time and requires leaders to be proactive. Here are 7 things you should know about building trust as a leader:

  1. Transparency is key. If you want your team to feel confident in your abilities and trust you as a leader, then sharing information openly and updating your team on the inner workings of the organization is especially important. Employees don’t want to be blindsided by information, and being candid allows you to encourage open communication. When leaders keep their team members in the loop, it naturally fosters trust in an organization.
  2. Practice self-awareness. Being able to recognize how your strengths and weaknesses influence your leadership demonstrates self-awareness. Self-aware leaders are “better able to recognize and manage their own emotions, which can help them respond more effectively to difficult situations and conflicts,” according to Forbes. Self-awareness helps leaders be more observant of the needs and perspectives of others, a quality that is essential in building trust in a team.
  3. You have to be vulnerable. Leaders lead by example. If we want our team members to feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts, concerns, and feelings with us, then we need to demonstrate it first ourselves. This means being vulnerable with your team and being honest when you make mistakes. Being vulnerable means not ignoring difficult emotions or situations that arise but rather showing by example how you learned from them. It also means being willing to ask for help when you need it.
  4. Reliability is essential. It doesn’t matter how self-aware or transparent you are with your team if you are not reliable. If your employees feel like they cannot rely on their leader, then they will quickly lose trust. Being reliable means ensuring your actions and words line up and that you are dependable when needed. When leaders consistently follow through with their commitments, they build trust with their team members.
  5. Human-centred leadership. Human-centred leaders actively foster psychologically safe work environments where team members feel valued and appreciated. They do so by creating safe, inclusive, and welcoming spaces for all team members to feel supported. At its core, human-centred leadership puts people first, and human-centred leaders understand that empowering people builds trust in an organization. A human-centred leader inspires their team members and builds a culture that cares about one another’s wellbeing.
  6. Embrace a growth mindset. When leaders embrace a growth mindset, they actively seek feedback from employees, encourage open discussions, and foster a culture of empowerment. Leaders with a growth mindset are resilient and view challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles they need to overcome. This also means being open to feedback and learning to adapt to the needs of an organization. Embracing a growth mindset allows a leader to see the potential in their team members, and this confidence builds trust.
  7. Lead with humility. Leading with humility makes you a better leader. In fact, research proves practicing humility is crucial to effective leadership. Humble leaders know they need the support of others to be successful. Humility fosters an environment of trust and respect because humble leaders are not afraid to admit and own up to their mistakes. By doing so, they gain the respect of their team members, who are more willing to trust in someone they admire and come to you with their ideas.

Building trust takes time, dedication, and hard work. It is a conscious effort leaders need to make to strengthen their relationships with their team members. To foster trust in others, we need first to show that we are trustworthy ourselves and lead by example. As leaders, when we take active steps and dedicate time to fostering trust in our organizations, we can create successful teams that thrive.