Thirteen Behaviors of a High Trust Leader

By Sharon Krohn, M.A., MCC

I recently developed and ran a retreat for a dynamic group of women deal makers to help these emerging leaders explore ways leverage their networks, to help build and enhance their businesses. In working with these women, I was reminded of the lessons of Stephen R.M. Covey and his classic, The Speed of Trust The One Thing That Changes Everything. In this book Covey suggests that trust is the essential component that changes the dynamics of a relationship and he outline thirteen specific elements that make up the behaviors of high-trust leaders.  Regardless of role, every leader can take important learnings from Covey’s straightforward advice.

Which are your most valuable take-aways?

The Thirteen Behaviors of a High Trust Leader by Stephen Covey from The Speed of Trust

Behavior #1        Talk Straight
Be honest and tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions.

Behavior #2        Demonstrate Respect
Genuinely care for others. Show you care. Respect the dignity of every person and every role. Treat everyone with respect, especially those who can’t do anything for you. Show kindness and little things. Don’t fake caring.

Behavior #3        Create Transparency
Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Declare your intent. Get real and be genuine. Be open and authentic. Err on the side of disclosure. Be transparent about not being able to be transparent (e.g., when the law or ethics preclude it). Operate on the premise of “What you see is what you get.” Don’t have hidden agendas. Don’t hide information.

Behavior #4        Right Wrongs
Make things right when you are wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible. Demonstrate humility. Don’t cover things up. Don’t let pride get in the way of doing the right thing.

Behavior #5        Show Loyalty
Give credit to others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who are there to speak for themselves. Don’t badmouth others behind their backs. When you must talk about others, check your intent. Don’t disclose others’ private information.

Behavior #6        Deliver Results
Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen. Accomplish what you’re hired to do. Be on time and within budget. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t make excuses for not delivering.

Behavior #7        Get Better
Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner. Develop feedback systems, both formal and informal. Act on the feedback you receive. Thank people for feedback. Don’t consider yourself above feedback. Don’t assume today’s knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges.

Behavior #8        Confront Reality
Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables “. Address the rough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid. Confront issues before they turn into major problems. Confront the reality, not the person. Lead out courageously in conversation. Don’t skirt the real issues. Don’t bury your head in the sand.

Behavior #9        Clarify Expectations
Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate with them if needed and possible. Don’t violate expectations. Don’t assume that expectations are clear or shared.

Behavior #10     Practice Accountability
Hold yourself accountable first; hold others accountable second. Take responsibility for results, good or bad. Be clear on how you will communicate how you are doing and how others are doing. Don’t avoid or shirk responsibility. Don’t blame others or point fingers when things go wrong.

Behavior #11     Listen First
Listen before you speak. Understand. Listen with your ears, your eyes and your heart. Find out what the most important behaviors are to the people you are working with. Don’t assume you know what matters most to others. Don’t presume you have all the answers for all the questions.

Behavior #12     Keep Commitments
Say what you were going to do, and then do it. Make commitments – both explicit and implicit – very carefully and keep them at almost all costs. Communicate when you can’t. Make keeping commitments the symbol of your honor. Don’t break confidences. Don’t attempt to “spin” your way out of a commitment you’ve broken.

Behavior #13     Extend Trust
Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust. Learn how to appropriately Extend trust to others based on the situation, risk, and credibility of the people involved. But start with a propensity to trust. Don’t withhold trust because there is risk involved.


For a deeper dive into building trust with your team or in your work culture, contact Sharon for a consultation.