Five Actions Of A Trustworthy Leader

Whether we are a leader on a large global team or a leader in a small organization, our ability to be trusted will impact our performance and relationships. There’s no way around it. If we can’t be trusted we will never be able to reach our potential and become influential.

Have you ever worked on a project and the person feeding you information overlooked giving you all the data?

 Did you ever have a boss who set up a meeting with you and failed to show up?

 Was there ever a time when a team member threw you “under the bus” by blaming you for something they neglected to do?

 Has it ever happened that you made a commitment with a deliverable that you completely forgot about because you got involved in other work?

 Frustrated and disappointed individuals have shared all these scenarios in my leadership programs. And of course each of us faces “let-downs”. But to be a trustworthy leader we need to own our missteps and be accountable to the very important people we work with daily.

Here are five actions of a trustworthy leader:


When leaders are honest about an error they made, team members see them as being human. Our human side helps us display our trustworthiness. Each of us messes up at different points. What’s important is admitting our mistake and offering to fix the situation quickly.


We are all inundated with extraordinary amounts of data but it is essential that we share it with team members and project partners. Trustworthy leaders share their information freely.

  • Never withhold important documents or knowledge
  • Keep colleagues updated when things change
  • It’s better to provide more data than exclude facts


If we forget to show up at a meeting make sure to apologize sincerely. Time can sometimes get away from us but to be a trustworthy leader we need to let the other person know we are sorry. A sure way to betray someone’s trust is by not acknowledging when we have disappointed a team member. We all want to feel we can count on the people we see each day.


Blaming others for our errors is not holding ourselves accountable. To be a trustworthy leader we need to own our actions.

  • Instead of finger-pointing accept your part in a project delay
  • Rather than accuse a teammate of not touching-base with a customer, state that it was an oversight on your part and will speak to them that day
  • Support the hard work and efforts others put in


To be a trustworthy leader we need to be great at follow-through. If we commit to a deliverable, we need to complete it with care and timeliness. If we set up a meeting we need to show up with full focus and energy. When leaders fail to carry out what they offer to do they will destroy their trustworthiness and credibility quickly.

What actions do you take to be a trustworthy leader?



6 thoughts on “Five Actions Of A Trustworthy Leader

  1. Important points, Terri! This week I interviewed an applicant for my university. We exchanged a few emails but I must have been so busy that I didn’t plug the right information into Time and Date when I did the time conversion and got the time on my end wrong. Neither one of us noticed before our scheduled call. I realized 20 minutes after our start time I messed up. When I finally got on the call, I apologized and he, the candidate, graciously excused my behavior. I apologized at the start of the call and the end and took responsibility. I emphasized that his time mattered as much as mine and the error was my fault. Our time mattered and he mattered. I made a mistake and yes, I could figure out a million reasons why, but it didn’t make it an excuse to hide behind.

    I hope leaders everywhere read your post! Will share!


  2. I love your story Alli and I’m even more impressed with your strong leadership in apologizing! We sometimes forget that our human side is so important to expose. Each of us, in the same situation as your candidate, would have been so appreciative for someone like you not making excuses but saying they were sorry for their mistake. When leaders own their slip-ups and hold themselves accountable they will always shine and be impactful.

    Thank you Alli for being accountable and open with us!

  3. What a great list, Terri! Spot-on with this: To be a trustworthy leader we need to own our missteps and be accountable to the very important people we work with daily. When we own up to our mistakes, and then dissect them enough to learn from them, we are showing our team members how to take smart risks. There is no risk-taking without a few mistakes along the way. We can take smart risks when we learn from our mistakes and make the next iteration all that much easier…

  4. Excellent addition LaRae! There is definitely a strong correlation between making mistakes and risk-taking. The most successful leaders I have worked with are willing to show their missteps and the ways in which they held themselves accountable. When we own our slip-ups we empower ourselves to make the necessary changes so we can propel our projects forward or make good on disappointing our team members or customers.

    I appreciate you adding to the dialogue LaRae!

  5. Being intentional about building trust is so important Terri! And in that it means owning our humanness. We are all flawed and will all make mistakes. Being willing to own those mistakes, while not making excuses is a big step in building trust with others.

  6. Yes Chery! “Being willing to own those mistakes, while not making excuses is a big step in building trust with others.” When we make excuses for not coming through for somebody we destroy any trust we built. I once had a co-worker who never wanted to show me her human side and continually acted better than everyone else. It was so difficult to build any trust with her.

    Thanks Chery for your insights here!

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