The Trust Cornerstone: 6 Ways to Create Leadership Character

For the last several months, this blog focused on trust, the cornerstone of character because character is the foundation of all leadership. Trust allows others to make the things they value vulnerable to your actions based on their belief in your character. As a leader, you and your team fail without trust. Trusted leaders create empowered people. Empowered people make important decisions at the right level and time, and create the greatest impact on mission execution . This series examined six facets of the Cornerstone of Trust; communication, responsibility, team building, developing proficiency, respect & empathy, and setting an example. As leaders develop competencies in each of these areas, they improve their leadership skills, develop character as an individual, and create trust with their followers, their peers, their leaders, and people outside the organization. This series closes with a short review in each area.

Communication is the base of the Trust Cornerstone. Communication supports all the other areas of trust as leaders communicate up, down, and across their organizations.
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As the base of the cornerstone of trust, everything rests on strong communication skills. Leaders must communicate consistently, frequently, and honestly with their followers, their peers, their leaders, and other stakeholders. Consistency provides predictability from others that you will be in touch. Frequency ensures you are in contact often enough to fix communication errors and identify other issues. Honesty requires time to respectfully tell others how they are doing and inform stakeholders how you are meeting their needs. The acronym TIPS is a great way to remember the important parts of communication. Talk to your people; keep them Informed; be Predictable in your communication and responses; and be Sensitive to their needs.


Responsible leaders do what they say they are going to do and manage people and property. The first part of this sentiment is simple, if you make a promise, keep it. While it is not always easy to keep promises, doing so establishes that you are a reliable person and leader. Managing resources is next. A common distinction between leadership and management is that leaders lead people and managers manage things. While there is lots of truth to that statement, people are a resource that must be led and managed. Ensure you have the right people in the right seats, that they have meaningful work, get paid, and are well trained. Managing property seems simple, know what you are supposed to have and where it is. Ensuring it is well maintained is an overlooked part of this quality. 

Build Your Team

Hard work builds strong, trusting teams. Like pilots flying in close formation, team members rely on one another to do the right things, the right way, at the right time. This hard work also develops individual and team proficiency.
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You are not a leader if you are not followed. You build your team by working them hard. That means you provide meaningful tasks for your followers that are not easy but can be accomplished. Whether you are developing a new product, running a service, or solving a problem, hard work builds strong teams. People will absolutely complain. However, once the job is done, they obtain bragging rights by accomplishing something difficult. That creates the shared team history and identity that attracts others to join you.

Build Proficiency

This applies to you as a leader and to the skills of your team. Ensure you know how to do the tasks you must accomplish and develop the skills necessary to complete them. You may need to find a mentor or take some classes. Being a leader requires you know more than just how to do the job your people do; it requires you to know how to lead. Influencing others to accomplish your organization’s mission may be the most difficult part of your job as a leader.

Ensuring your people are competent means investing in their education and training. If you fail to ensure your people are well trained, you have no right to expect quality results. As you move up to higher levels in an organization, you will lead a wider variety of people completing tasks you lack expertise. You must know enough about the work to recognize deception. You do not have to know how to complete every task. You do need to know how to tell if someone is skilled in their work.

Act Respectfully

Up front, this means you use your manners. Say please and thank you. Open the door for other people. Stand when someone enters your office, not just the boss or your most valued client. Ask questions about things people tell you. Speak positively about people not present. Be on time for meetings and meet deadlines for products. Doing these simple things communicates loudly that you value people regardless of their perceived position. 

Set an Example

The Cornerstone supports the rest of the structure. Everything comes together at the corner. Strong cornerstones create long lasting building. In life, trust serves the same purpose in our relationships and supports all our work. Care for your cornerstone as you grow as a leader.
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Tied closely with acting respectfully is setting a good example. You do this living the standards you set which should be the same for you and your followers. When you model expected behaviors, people will copy your behavior. Live your values in a consistent, disciplined fashion; it is the single best way you build character and establish trust. When you are willing to walk the talk, others notice and you know what you ask of others is possible.

As a leader, character is the foundation of your leadership. You build character one day at a time with every action you take. Trust is the cornerstone of that foundation. There are six areas leaders can focus and grow to improve trust: communicating better, acting responsibly, developing proficiency (personally and for your teams), building your team, acting respectfully with others, and setting a trusting example. The actions you take in each of these areas builds character and develops trust with others. With increased trust comes increased power and influence. With greater influence enables you and your team to attempt bigger and greater things.  Without trust you fail as a leader and so does your team. Increased trust inside and outside our organization provides you and your team the power and influence necessary to accomplish anything.  As we close this series on trust, be disciplined and identify how you can carve your cornerstone of trust.


  • Blanchard, K. & Miller, M. (2014) The secret. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, CA. Kindle Ed.
  • Covey, S. & Merrill, R. (2008) The speed of trust. Free Press. New York, NY
  • Feltman, C. (2008). The thin book of trust: An essential primer for building trust at work. United States: Thin Book Publishing.
  • Re:Work (ND). How to foster psychological safety on your teams. Re:Work PDF
  • Spencer, T (ND). TIPS. Personal conversation with the author.
  • Willink, J. (2016). Good. The Jocko Podcast YouTube Channel. Retrieved from: on 15 Jun 2022
  • Willink, J. & Babbin, L. (2015). Extreme ownership. St. Martin’s Publishing Group. New York, NY.

(c) 2022 Christopher St. Cyr