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Three Key Factors in Building Trust


Three Key Factors in Building Trust

Darryl Stickel shares an article that explores building trust in a hostile environment.

Amid the smoke and rubble of destroyed buildings stand a defiant Ukrainian people.  They are determined to protect their homeland from Russian invaders.  The Russians have more weapons, equipment, and trained soldiers.  But, within the borders of Ukraine, the Russians don’t have more people, and they don’t have a leader like Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Many leaders must be looking at the situation in Ukraine and wondering how Zelensky has gotten so many people to face down tanks, missiles, and Russian atrocities.  People from other nations are flooding into the country to help stand against the Russian invaders and nations are moving away from historically neutral stances to support sanctions against Russia and lend aid to Ukraine. The question is how has Zelensky been able to accomplish all this? The simple answer is trust.  The Ukrainian people trust the cause and they trust their leader.  For students of leadership, the biggest takeaway is clear: leaders who inspire high levels of trust in those they lead can get them to do exceptional things.

Ample evidence exists for the decline in trust in all sectors of society over the last several decades and much ink has been spilled on the impacts of that decline. Precious little has been written about how to actually build trust.  Zelensky’s own popularity was in decline prior to the invasion. And yet now people are willing to follow him into hell on earth. How has he made this transition?

I hold a PhD in Business from Duke, wrote my doctoral thesis on building trust in hostile environments, and have spent the last 20 years helping individuals and organizations better understand what trust is, how it works, and how to build it. Every dictionary defines trust slightly differently, but I define trust as the willingness to make ourselves vulnerable when we are uncertain about how others will act. This definition includes elements of uncertainty and vulnerability, which together serve as the basis for trust and combine to give us a level of perceived risk.  If our perception of the level of risk is beneath our threshold or risk tolerance, we trust.  If our perception of risk exceeds that threshold, we don’t trust.  This means that building trust becomes an exercise in reducing perceptions of vulnerability and uncertainty.

Read the full article, If I lead, will they follow? Provoking followership through trust, on