What does it mean to be a trustworthy leader in the workplace? In our personal lives, we tend to assign trust to the people we can rely on the most. But in our professional lives, that does not always apply. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the media all struggle with a loss of public trust. The study revealed that private industry is one of the only remaining institutions perceived as competent and ethical in the public eye. Consequently, we can begin to ask ourselves why the expectation and definition of what it means to be trustworthy have broader applications for professional leaders.

It is not easy for leaders in a professional setting to gain the trust of their colleagues. If trust is earned and not necessarily given, leaders must grapple with how they can demonstrate their trustworthiness. As a leader who partners with like-minded entrepreneurs looking to foster positive social changes within their communities and beyond, I see this first-hand in my work. Here are some strategies I rely on to demonstrate my trustworthiness to my colleagues, clients, and collaborators.

Make authentic choices.

Our chosen actions are a direct reflection of our values. Whether conscious or subconscious,
these values appear in our decision-making whether we intend them to or not. When seeking to demonstrate your trustworthiness, it is best to be as transparent with your values as possible. Indeed, intention does not always mirror impact. However, explicitly articulating your values can help the people around you know what to expect from you and whether they can rely on you in specific circumstances.

Explicitly stating your values to your team gives the people you work with a first glance at who you are. And although our actions mirror our values, it is impossible to expect our coworkers to be 100% consistent. Sometimes, we might even take a look at ourselves and question why we did or said a particular thing. If you feel regretful after your words or actions failed to mirror your values, do not hesitate to acknowledge your mistake. Failing to acknowledge any say-do gaps might make you look like a hypocrite, which consequently erodes trust. While admitting your wrongdoing and apologizing might be uncomfortable, it is always best, especially when building trust, to break the ice and confront your shortcomings rather than sweeping them under the rug.

Be the kind of leader you wish you had.

Much of our internal value system that gets projected onto others is fundamentally shaped by our prior experiences. As leaders, we have the power to learn from previous experiences that may not have been as positive as we would have liked them to be. Take professional development, for example. Have you ever felt that you took on a role at work that did not meet your skillset? As a leader, you can create opportunities for those around you to flourish. Look out for how a team member’s tone of voice shifts when discussing an upcoming project or a new documentary that has implications for your industry. Identifying and developing ways for your team to bring their passions to the workplace not only creates opportunities for your colleagues to shine—it builds morale and resilience.

Sometimes, team members can hesitate to go into detail when making missteps at work. Because they fear the reactions of others, insecurity prevents these moments from becoming important teachable lessons. Instead, leaders should encourage vulnerability and transparency, even when things are not necessarily going as planned. Creating a “safe space” by ensuring the dignity of all team members fosters trust, growth, and mentorship. When holding your team members accountable for their actions, be sure to remind them of their self-respect, self-worth, and value to your organization. While it is alright to express disappointment, do not let negativity control the conversation. Leaders are allies first and supervisors second. As a result, getting others back on track in the aftermath of a mistake requires the unwavering, demonstrated support of leaders like us.

About Bo Parfet

Bo Parfet is the co-founder and CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy, an organization that
helps “impact” entrepreneurs who share Bo’s philanthropic values. Bo Parfet is also the Chief Growth Officer at DLP Real Estate Capital.  Before creating Denali Venture Philanthropy in 2010, he worked for J.P. Morgan Chase in New York City as an investment banker. During his tenure on Wall Street, Bo also embarked on his journey to climb the Seven Summits of the world, completing the mission with Mount Everest in 2007. A Kalamazoo native, Bo currently resides in Boulder, Colorado and St. Augustine, Florida, with Mereidth and two children.