8 Pillars of Trust

Excerpt from “THE TRUST EDGE: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line” by David Horsager (Summerside Press, September 2011).

By David Horsager

Everything of value is built on trust, from financial systems to relationships.

Trust has always been foundational to genuine success of any kind. However, it has not been labeled as such. People seldom talk about trust as a competency to learn and practice. That is changing. Almost overnight, trust found its way into the public limelight specifically because it has been so hard to find. From massive fraud in business to scandals in politics and athletics, the headlines point to a persis­tent problem of modern life and business–we’re lacking in trust. Meanwhile, the world is “flattening” in many respects. Cultures are meeting and expanding in ways that weren’t possible even a decade ago. But globalization isn’t a free ride. Joining the mega-mergers and open markets are new suspicions and misunderstandings. We can reach across borders, but we don’t know how to be trusted by the people we find on the other side. In the 21st century, trust has become the world’s most precious resource.

Trust has the ability to accelerate or destroy any business, organi­zation, or relationship. The lower the trust, the more time every­thing takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved. However, greater trust brings superior innova­tion, creativity, freedom, morale, and productivity.

A Lack of Trust Is Your Biggest Expense

In one of the largest and most extensive surveys of its kind, Watson Wyatt studied 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries and work levels. According to the study, “Companies with high trust levels gener­ated total returns to shareholders at almost three times that of companies with low levels of trust.”Whether you are a student or a CEO, a teacher or a parent, a politician or a nurse, trust multiplies influence and impact. A lack of trust is your biggest expense. Before we get too far, let’s define The Trust Edge.

Before I started my graduate research based on trust, I had been searching for the uniqueness of top leaders and organizations. Top leaders were defined as ones who were not only successful financially, but also made a significant positive influence in the lives of those they served over a period of time. Top leaders left individuals and organizations measurably better than they found them. What made these people and organizations unique? They all had one common trait—trust. I found that trust is not a soft skill. It is a measurable competency that brings dramatic results. It can be built into an organization’s strategy, goals, and culture.

The Trust Edge

When I was studying, I found that some top organizations and leaders clearly had a competitive edge over others. Those leaders or organiza­tions that could weather storms, charge higher prices, maintain respect with customers and clients, and foster long-term growth were special. The greatest leaders and organizations of all time have had the same competitive edge. They were the most trusted. The Trust Edge is the competitive advantage gained when others confidently believe in you!

The Pillars

If you visit the Roman ruins or the synagogue in Capernaum, you will see that many parts of the structures have crumbled, but the pillars still stand. The pillars are the foundation for holding something up. They are strong, solid, and lasting. In the years I’ve spent studying the underlying connection between success and trust, I’ve identified eight key areas that are best described as Pillars. They are the bedrock that creates The Trust Edge. These pillars are applicable for anyone interested in establishing a foundation for genuine success.

  1.  Consistency: The little things done consistently make for leaders being followed, increased sales and retention, and a higher level of trust. Consistency isthe way brands are built and character is revealed.
  2.  Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When people are clear about the mission they do the little things differently. A clear mission unifies and inspires. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis we become productive and effective.
  3.  Compassion: Think beyond yourself. Never underestimate the power of sincerely caring. It is the reason we trust our mothers over some salespeople. We are skeptical if the salesperson really has our best interest in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying; it is a bottom-line truth. If followed, it builds trust.
  4.  Character: Do what is right over what is easy. Character is a mix of two things. One is integrity, which means being the same from beliefs to words to actions. The other is moral character. Take the high road in every interaction.
  5.  Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. Be a contributor who delivers real results.
  6.  Competency: Staying fresh, relevant and capable builds trust. The humble teachable person keeps learning new and better ways of doing things. They stay current on ideas and trends. There is always more to learn so make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.
  7.  Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends. People become friends when they build connections. Ask questions. Listen. Life, work,and trust are about relationships. All relationships are best built by establishing genuine connection.
  8.  Commitment: Stick with it through adversity. Followers trusted General Patton; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Gandhi; Jesus; and George Washington because they saw commitment. They saw sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment reveals and builds trust.

Trust Impacts You

No matter your role, trust affects your influence and success. It affects every level of business, from Fortune 500 leaders to a family owned general store. It affects teaching outcomes and political votes. Those who are trusted are effective. When you focus on increasing your Trust Edge, you will enjoy greater success and impact. When you change yourself, you have the best chance of impacting your organization, family, relationships, and even your world.

David Horsager is a business strategist, professor, keynote speaker, and author of the new book “THE TRUST EDGE: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line” (Summerside Press, September 2011). His roster of past and present clients includes FedEx, Wells Fargo, American Express, ING, the Department of Homeland Security, Medtronic, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the Minnesota Vikings, Covidien, and John Deere Credit. For more information, visit http://www.davidhorsager.com/or


Training magazine is the industry standard for professional development and news for training, human resources and business management professionals in all industries.