Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Trust-Building: The Leadership Essential” (SL#73)
A Trust-Building Series Overview
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.2 - Trust-Building

1. Begin with an Understanding of Trust-Building

2. Build Trust on Biblical Concepts

An understanding of trust begins with Holy Scripture; in the New Testament the concept for “trust” and “trustworthy” is found primarily in the words for faith, faithfulness, and to believe. Most often it is descriptive of our relationship to God, but also describes very positive human relationships. Consider three New Testament forms:

Verb - “pisteuo” means to believe in something, or someone; to be convinced of something, to give credence; to have confidence, to trust, to entrust, to rely on someone.

Noun - “pistis” means faith, trust, that which causes trust and faith--such as a promise or pledge; trust, faith, confidence in--such as the Lord's help in distress (see the following biblical verse), a persuasion or conviction, that something is true. Matthew 8:10 records Jesus' response to “trust”:

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (NIV)

Adjective - “pistos” means trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring trust, worthy of trust, reliable.

Glossary-- Trust, trustworthiness (abstracted from Zondervan Commentary)

The words dealt with here [in this article] are basically concerned with that personal relationship with a person or thing which is established by trust and trustworthiness (including their negation). If this relationship comes about through persuasion or conviction, the vb. peithomai is used. The perfect tense pepoitha expresses the firm conviction and confidence that has come about. The words of the pistis group are derived from the same verbal stem. They denoted originally the faithful relationship of partners in an agreement and the trustworthiness of their promises. In a broader sense they came to denote the credibility of statements, reports and accounts in general, both sacred and secular. In NT Greek. they gained a special importance and specific content through their application to the relationship with God in Christ: the trusting acceptance and recognition of what God has done and promised in him.

How do you respond to this summary of the biblical understanding of trust and trustworthy?

Contemporary Uses, Similar to Biblical: Don’t be too surprised! In today’s “real life” and leadership, we use the word “trust” and its related terms often in the same way as they are used by biblical writers. Let’s look at some of the definitions right out of the dictionaries. Trust means:

3. Connect Your Trust-Building to Servant Leadership

If it is true that “leadership is a relationship,” and that the foundation of relationship is trust, then it is an essential responsibility of the first order that leaders be trust-builders from the ground up--or better still, “from the heart out!” The figure as a pyramid shows the structure of trust-building as it relates to Christian ministry. Even if you choose a more flexible symbol, consider the following relationship of trust-building to servant leadership:

Your Reflection on Trust and Servant Leadership: Before we go any further in the study, put your mind around trust-building as a servant leader; respond to one or all of these trust concepts in the pyramid--add your own.

4. Learn from Contemporary Leaders on Trust-Building

Trust-Building, Essential and Beneficial: Contemporary authorities on leadership include in their treatment of leadership, explicit benefits of mutual trust in the human enterprise. These examples could also be adapted and applied to the life and performance of congregations:

The Leadership Challenge on Building Trust: In their chapter on “fostering collaboration” (see pp. 146-152), Kouzes and Posner describe several aspects related to building trusting relationships; selected concepts from their research are only summarized here:

Learning to Lead on Leaders Building Trust: Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith examine in a chapter on “Maintaining Trust through Integrity” (see pp. 120-121) four qualities or characteristics of leadership which, when practiced, engender trust:

5. Study and Apply Ten Practices for Trust-Building

We have identified and are presenting ten characteristics and practices of leadership trust and trust-building based on biblical, psychological, leadership, and relational understandings. The ten practices (see SL#73--SL#86) are the core of this series. Each article will explore both descriptions of trust-building and actions you may take.

SL#73--Trust-Building: The Leadership Essential- An Overview
SL#74--Trustworthy: Living the Self-Examined Life
SL#75--Trusting: Reaching Out with Others
SL#76--Communications: Bridges for Trust-Building
SL#77--Honesty: The Leader’s Credibility Test
SL#78--Consistency: Counting on Leaders to Be Leaders
SL#79--Competency: Preparedness for Leadership Tasks
SL#80--Encouragement: Empowering Team Members
SL#81--Vision: Inspiration for Achieving Together
SL#82--Responsibility: Leaders Work at Their Job
SL#83--Rebuilding Trust: Leaders Begin Again, and Again
SL#84--Job One Resources: Leaders Build Trust Within
SL#85--Job Two Resources: Leaders Build Trust in the Workplace
SL#86--Job Three Resources: Leaders Consistently Practice Trust

My Summary of Trust-Building:

6. Develop Your Own Self-Directed Plan for Trust-Building

During the past 55 years of service inside of congregations and other Christian institutions, I have had my own ups and downs in ministry roles. For 22 years I served as a pastor, and 33 years as a minister-at-large, as an executive, educator, professor, and consultant. In these recent years, my joy has been to serve as a lay member in numerous volunteer congregational roles. My observations of other congregational relationships agree with my own firsthand experiences, that we need as Christian believers to be very intentional and skilled at building trust within the life and work of congregations and other Christian organizations. And we need a plan to do so. Let’s give it an initial effort.

Trust-Building Bibliography: Click here for specific, selected resources on trust-building; and see Articles SL# 84, #85 and #86. For other general resource items, see Bibliography/Links.

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© 2007; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership