In the last blog post, I introduced the notion of four leadership Intelligences – Awareness, Trust/Integrity, Authenticity, and Commitment – that support the development of the being of being a leader. I explored Awareness in that blog.

In this post, I will examine leadership intelligence #2, Trust/Integrity. Typically, trust is misunderstood and can be the source of much confusion in organizational life. I will focus on the complexity of Trust as applied to leadership development.

Leadership Intelligence #2: TRUST/INTEGRITY

Trust based on integrity strengthens our word, offering the reliability and care for developing relationships. 

Consider that trust is the foundation of human development. How we generate trust determines how we relate, live, and coordinate action with others. Without trust, inaction prevails, relationships falter, and we become a victim of circumstances.

Most of our work to understand trust is confusing and causes a great deal of suffering. Partly, we are unsure what to observe or how to measure trust, as detail in this video: What we don’t understand about trust.

Often, we measure trust by how we feel, not what we see. Shifting our relationships to trust will transform every facet of our lives, a worthy project, given how fundamental trust is to our very existence.

We often mediate trust based on incomplete assessments such as:

  • a style: how we experience or assess niceness, politeness, or courteousness.
  • a belief: how we assess devotion for/faith in/loyalty to a concept or process.
  • a safe space: how we experience an open environment or consensus to take risks.

What might be possible if we viewed the phenomenon of trust as a social practice that we generate, rather than just a feeling or belief or space?

We also hold misperceptions about trust, such as those noted by author and philosopher, Fernando Flores, in his book Building Trust. First, we explore our view of trust.

  • Static: Either trust exists, or it doesn’t exist. From this view, trust occurs as a belief, or “safe space,” which is either present or not. When trust is broken, we deem violators unworthy of trust. We can no longer trust in the same way.
  • Dynamic: Trust is fluid, occurring between full self-expression and breaches. From this view, we expect breaches to occur. Addressing breaches reveals what’s missing in order to strengthen trust. Through continual practice, we see the dynamic of trust includes breaches and betrayals.

Once we accept a dynamic view, we can examine our approach to trust among Simple Trust, akin to an infant’s trust or magical thinking; Blind Trust, holding beliefs in the face of contrary evidence or denial of evidence; and Authentic Trust, which Flores details.

With authentic trust, we engage and address breaches, as the very access to building trust. We cultivate the deep connections necessary to generate workability and coordinate action. Being trustworthy empowers our whole self and fosters mutual interdependence.

The Promises of Trust

To be effective, build relationships, and lead change in uncertain times, leaders require trust; that is, to become trustworthy and to cultivate authentic trust in others.

Cultivating trust is foundational to generating agreements and commitments. With enhanced commitments, we generate more intentional action, develop motivated and inspired colleagues, and create greater levels of trust to act, even in the face of uncertainty.

Many change management programs neglect this simple fact: Organizational change is about human interaction. Individuals only venture into the unknown when they feel confident. Often confidence is the result of trusting one’s capacity to act on promises. Without this “confidence to act,” people wait for hard evidence, for others to act, and for people to prove their integrity.

Waiting becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, giving permission for others to wait. Inaction takes a heavy toll on organizations: missed opportunities squander time and financial resources; expectation of inaction lowers morale, discouraging initiative; and the consequence of inaction fosters resignation and encourages cynicism.

Authentic trust is not a state we achieve; it results from promises we assess in others and cultivate in ourselves. Trustworthy leaders hold themselves accountable by satisfying four implied promises: 1) Integrity, 2) Competency, 3) Reliability, and 4) Involvement.

Assessing the Promises of Trust

Moving beyond sentimentality to a social practice of becoming trustworthy involves four assessments as follows.

Integrity: I am who I say I am. My private conversations match my public conversations.

  • I am held to account for my word as whole and complete and hold others accountable to their word, creating workability, which cultivates dignity.
  • With integrity, we assess that a person’s agreements reveal their intentions, words, and actions to create workability.

CompetencyI can do what I say I can do. I am knowledgeable in the areas that I say I am, which cultivates my credibility.

  • My perceptions about what I know and can accomplish match what I express, enhancing my credibility.
  • With competency, we assess the accuracy of a person’s perception of their experience, knowledge, and skills to accomplish the required task.

ReliabilityI will do what I say I will do. I can predict my time and my ability to deliver on what I’ve said, creating consistency in the way I show up.

  • When I cannot deliver, I am willing to communicate to all parties in a way that mitigates any impact.
  • We reliability, we assess a person’s perception of time to completion along with stated conditions for delivering on their word.

Involvement: I am attuned to your concerns. Involvement works at a deeper intuitive and observational level, constituting my level of care.

  • Our concerns matter to us, that is what constitutes them as concerns for us and not for others. Mattering is the connective tissue to our world. What matters to us gives meaning to our existence.
  • On the intuitive level, my emotional participation (empathy, mood, or attitude) reveals that I am attuned to your concerns.
  • At an observational level, I demonstrate the same priority of care (commitment) for your concerns.
  • With involvement, we assess that others prioritize our concerns in accordance with the way we hold our concerns.

Becoming Trustworthy

Becoming trustworthy begins with myself and in the listening and speaking that constitutes my life. With practice, I can then generate trust as a social practice by properly assessing (listening for) and honoring these conditions as a presence or absence in others.

Being trustworthy generates a field of possibility for coordinating action, enhancing accountability and performance, and deepening relationships.

Reading Time: 4.5 min. Digest Time: 6.5 min.

The concepts in the blog are adapted from work by the following thinkers:

  • Being and Time, by Martin Heidegger; John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Translators) (1962).
  • Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life by Robert C. Solomon, Fernando Flores (2003)
  • Coaching to the Human Soul, Volume I, by Alan Sieler (2005)

View the related blogs in this series:



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Tony Zampella is the learning designer at Bhavana Learning Group, which serves coaches, educators, and learning professionals and executives.

As an instructor, researcher, and designer of contemplative learning programs and practices, Tony’s work explores the human side of change by bringing wisdom to learning. His focus includes ontological inquiry, Integral meta-theory, and Buddhist psychology to sustain contemplative practice.