Trust: The Foundation of Leadership

How do you determine who you choose to follow? What plays into your decision? Sure, likeability is one thing. But the main thing is trust. Trust is the starting point for leading others; trust and leadership go hand in hand.

Last week I had a chat with a collaborator of mine about leadership, specifically trust. She and I both have ongoing projects that require coaching people for leadership positions, so it was a timely conversation. We discussed how one becomes trustworthy, and I remembered reading a very good book about leadership called Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You, by Frances Frei and Anne Morris.

In it, they describe the Trust Triangle; which describes the drivers of trust. What, then, are the drivers of trust?

3 Drivers of trust

According to Frei and Morris, there are 3 drivers of trust:

  1. Authenticity. People tend to trust you when they think they are interacting with the real you;
  2. Logic. When they have faith in your judgment and competence;
  3. Empathy. When they believe that you care about them.

When trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a breakdown in one of these three core trust drivers; and getting trust back is harder when it’s lost.

3 drivers of trust


I think when it comes to leadership, logic is the driver that gets the most attention. Why? Because it has to do with competence. People get promoted, mainly, because of how competent they are at doing their job. We’ve evolved to include empathy in the equation, which is about emotional intelligence, but the main driver is still logic.

Authenticity is a less talked about driver of leadership, but it’s just as important because it’s how relationships start. When we’re around someone we subconsciously ask ourselves, and scan for signals that answer this question about the other person: “are you who you say you are?”.

Who likes being around someone who’s not authentic?

Anyway, want to be someone who’s revered and followed? Start by building trust. Now you know what drives it. Remember, trust is the starting point for leading others.