Leadership Requires Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of leadership. Leaders who are not trusted, rather feared, are dictators who control people rather than lead people (Northouse, 2013). Leaders are individuals with integrity who inspire confidence in others because of the level of trust they engender from others regarding their ability to follow through with what they say they are going to do (Northouse, 2013). These leaders often have developed a high degree of human skills that gives them insight into the needs of the people they lead. They make it a point to adapt their own ideas to those of others in order to better lead them (Northouse, 2013). By being intentional about their attention to the needs of people they create a culture of trust. The atmosphere that they develop within such a culture fosters a level of trust that followers feel comfortable and secure to the point where they are encouraged to become involved in behaviors and activities that make them better individuals (Northouse, 2013).

Servant leadership is a leadership model built primarily on the trust of followers. Servant leadership puts others at the center and desires to make change through serving followers rather than controlling them through fear and coercion. The 10 characteristics of servant leadership are focused on trust (Northouse, 2013):

  • listening
  • empathy
  • healing
  • awareness
  • persuasion
  • conceptualization
  • foresight
  • stewardship
  • commitment to the growth of people
  • building community

A true test of servant leadership is the evidence of followers growing to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely to become servants themselves (Greenleaf, 2012). When others become the focus of leadership endeavors, rather than the leader, then more people are served, equipped, strengthened, and developed.


Greenleaf, R. (2012). The Servant as Leader. The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.


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