How NOT to Gain & Keep Trust as a Leader

May 12, 2021 | Blog

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How NOT to Gain & Keep Trust as a Leader

This blog post originally appeared on Protagonist

What happened to the team that kicked butt? Where did the flow go? It feels like nobody talks to each other anymore; at least in constructive ways. Everyone is guarded and suspicious. What went wrong and when?

Sound familiar?

Chances are the story goes like this: Work life for you team was great! Trust was high so collaboration flowed freely. All was good. Then at one point somebody did something small that put a crack in the trust your team had for each other. Let’s say someone started showing up late for meetings on the regular and often had a weak excuse, if they had one at all. Nobody called them out on it, so it continued…and got worse. Then other little things started to happen. Others would randomly show up late – to work, to meetings, etc. Communication became less fluid. People spent more time at their desk and less time collaborating.

And that brings us to today.

If you want your team to be divided, silent, and take a lot longer to get work done, you can do the following. Remember, as a leader it is your job to set the example.

Let issues fester

“Why is Jenny always late? Does everyone have to sound so resentful in meetings? Why can’t anyone hit deadlines anymore?”

If you are in any kind of leadership position, you have probably wondered about these and other problems. If you want the decline in trust in you and across your team to continue down the slope, then by all means ignore those nagging thoughts.

You’re not setting a great example by letting issues fester and become worse. As a person of authority, it is your responsibility to praise in public and coach in private. By not dealing with the questions you have in your mind about current team issues, you are setting an example (and precedent) for the team that states avoiding your problems is okay.

Do what you want to do

“Who cares if I set hours for myself that are different from what I am demanding of the rest of the team? They have to follow my orders anyway.”

If you are the type of person whose mantra is “do as I say, not as I do,” then you need to stay far away from any kind of leadership role. That attitude sets the precedent that people can have double standards or worse, be two-faced. Consistency is a huge thing when you are in a leadership role because if you walk the talk, others will follow suit.


“I always tell people what they want to hear. Even though it’s often not true, I feel better knowing I’ve brightened their day.”

How do you feel when you hear the phrase “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” Nervous? Sad? Caught? Lying in general is a great way to dig yourself a very large hole to the other side of the planet. You have to remember who you told what and keep each story straight. As the proverbial house of cards grows, so do the consequences of it falling–and taking you down with it.

In closing, trust has a lot to do with consistency and integrity. Remember, leadership is the example, management is the tactics. Act with integrity consistently and I assure you that you will face fewer issues from every area of life; not just at work. People thrive on consistency and the ability to trust (i.e. ‘have faith’) that something or someone is who they are and will follow through on what they have agreed to. Look at your own habits first and make adjustments before you start trying to ‘coach in private’ others who may be consistently breaking trust. If you don’t lead the way by changing your own bad behaviors, any attempted adjustments to others are going to be hollow and largely ineffective in the long term.

There you have how NOT to gain & keep trust as a leader. If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out more of Adam Kobler’s thoughts at Protagonist! Also don’t miss my conversation with Adam on my Podcast or YouTube.

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