Recently, I was asked by a client in the Gulf about trust and how to instil it across their organisation, especially when there is such a diverse workforce of people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Trust for me is the foundation of all successful interpersonal relationships, both personal and at the workplace. Trust is the confidence or belief a person feels toward a particular person or group and so trust is, therefore, one of the primary forces that enables people to gel and work together in a truly effective manner.

However, I'm not sure if leaders fully appreciate the power of being perceived as having high levels of trust and integrity. After all, the perceptions of the workforce do impact business results it is the link between employee engagement and improved bottom-line performance.

The benefits

Trusted leaders get many rewards such as the ability to retain talented people, more engaged employees, a more positive performance/development driven work culture rather than the more traditional command control culture and, most importantly, improved results.

So why haven't leaders learnt the importance of trust? The absence of trust causes confusion, worry, inaction and fear.

When trust has been developed, individuals feel confident that everything will somehow work out, something that is just as important now as it has been over the past troubled months.

In the workplace, trust is a prerequisite for effective communication and without it employees may feel a sense of insecurity. However, often people use trust, or the lack of it, to explain both good and bad relationships to others.

There are various elements that build trust in leaders:

Capability, irrespective of how well they get on with other people. Their credibility is dependent upon perceived leadership and not just technical competence.

Ability to deliver. Trust is enhanced if the employees know that decisions and actions ensure that deliverables and performance expectations are met.


Leaders must have an intrinsic belief in their people and be willing to delegate and empower them to do what is necessary to get things done. Leaders cannot control everything and that willingness to trust their employees is vital if you expect that level of trust to be reciprocated.

An engaging leader. This is about leaders who communicate and engage with their employees and ‘keep them in the loop' about what is going on; there is nothing worse than when your team doesn't know what is going on!

Leaders need to be consistent in their approach with their employees and ensure that they are open to thoughts and ideas. Ensure that at an interpersonal level they are prepared to take time to listen and appreciate where people are ‘coming from' and how they see things. Put these elements together and I believe that you will have the basis of a trusted leader.

A trusting relationship demands that each person contributes enough respect so that it can be reciprocated from the other person. Unilateral respect in relationships is temporary and superficial whereas mutual respect can lead to a much deeper and longer lasting level of trust that can bind people together through difficult times.

The writer is consulting director of Kenexa EMEA and director of Kenexa HR Institute.