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The Trusted Leader

Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau, The Trusted Leader

The book on which this article is based, The Trusted Leader covers the subject of trusted leadership in-depth with plenty of examples that bring theory to life.

After introducing the theory, the book presents practical advice for situations frequently encountered by senior leaders.

 Table of Contents


Part One:

An Overview of Trusted Leadership

    1.  What is trusted leadership?

    2.  The Trusted Leader Self-Assessment

    3.  The Characteristics and Competencies of the Trusted Leader

    4.  The Enemies of Trusted Leadership


Part Two:

Identifying and Applying the Tools of Trusted Leaders

    5.  The Tools of Building Personal Trust

    6.  The Tools of Building Organizational Trust


Part Three: 

How Trusted Leaders Work

    7.  From the Top

    8.  Inside Teams, Departments, Offices

    9.  Across Teams, Departments, Offices


Part Four:

Defining Moments

    10.  In Times of Change

    11.  When People Leave

    12.  In Times of Crisis


Part Five:

Building Trust in Perspective

    13.  Trust Lost, Trust Rebuilt

    14.  When You Leave: The Legacy of Trust

  Afterword: The Trusted Leader Continues

  Notes and References

  About the Authors



 Trust is a vital ingredient in organizations since they represent a type of ongoing relationship. In their book The Trusted Leader, Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau analyze this important aspect of leadership and offer models for understanding trust and how to build it.

Galford and Drapeau identified three categories of trust within an organization:

  • Strategic trust – trust in the organization’s mission, strategy, and ability to succeed.
  • Organizational trust – trust that the organization’s policies will be fairly administered and implemented as stated.
  • Personal trust – trust that subordinates place in their manager to be fair and to look out for their interests.

In The Trusted Leader, Galford and Drapeau focus primarily on building personal and organizational trust.

Trust reduces unproductive rumors and second guessing that distracts employees from their work. It motivates, stimulates creativity, and helps the organization to attract and retain great employees.


Modeling Trust

Galford and Drapeau offer the following equation to model trust:



C  +  R  +  I



C = credibility

R = reliability

 I = intimacy

S = self-orientation


These characteristics are described as follows:

  • Credibility is earned by expertise, by the ability to obtain the required expertise, and by being up-front about one’s limitations.
  • Reliability is consistency and dependability. Reliable leaders provide a sense of comfort to their subordinates.
  • Intimacy is not about revealing personal details, but rather, making the business of the organization personal and understanding the sensitivities of others.
  • Self-orientation is the degree to which one focuses on one’s own concerns when interacting with others. Self-orientation decreases trustworthiness. Those who are motivated by duty or achievement tend to be more self-oriented than those motivated by meaning or who gain pleasure from the work itself.


Enemies of Trust

While the above formula provides some insight, building trust is not an endeavor performed in isolation. Rather, building trust is an effort of defending trust from its enemies. A lone trusted leader cannot succeed in an untrustworthy environment because such a leader will become a target and eventually be brought down.

Galford and Drapeau identified 22 enemies of trust, each of which can be classified in one of the following categories:

  • Inadequate communication
  • Misbehavior
  • Unremedied situations


Building Personal Trust

To build personal trust, Galford and Drapeau present a five stage process:

  1. Engaging – finding common ground and relating to other people, for example, by appreciating the key challenges that employees face in their jobs.
  2. Listening – builds trust by showing that one cares enough to invest the time to listen. Asking thoughtful questions, getting clarification when necessary, and giving one’s complete attention to the conversation all send the message that one cares about the other person.
  3. Framing – making sure that one understands the core of what the other person is conveying, and letting him or her know it.
  4. Envisioning – looking to the future and identifying an optimistic and achievable outcome, and helping the other person to visualize the benefits of that outcome.
  5. Committing – both parties agree and commit to moving toward the envisioned future.


Building Organizational Trust

Organizational trust is based on belief in the way things are done in the organization. While organizational trust requires personal trust in the organization’s leaders on an aggregate basis, it is possible to have an untrustworthy supervisor and still believe in the organization.

Galford and Drapeau identified five variables on which organizational trust depends, as shown in the following equation:

Organizational Trustworthiness


(A1  +  A2  +  A3)  x  (A4  +  A5)



A1 = Aspirations

A2 = Abilities

A3 = Actions

A4 = Alignment

A5 = Articulation

 R  = Resistance


These variables are described as follows:

  • Aspirations – aspirations provide the incentive for people in the organization to want to trust each other. Aspirations is another term for business vision.
  • Abilities – are the resources and capabilities required to fulfill the aspirations.
  • Actions – actually getting to the task and doing what is needed to reach the organizational goals rather than losing focus to the distractions that inevitably will arise.
  • Alignment – having consistency between aspirations, abilities, and actions.
  • Articulation – communicating the aspirations, abilities, actions, and alignment so that everybody in the organization knows them and is able to articulate them.
  • Resistance – building a trusting organization is likely to be met with resistance in the form of skepticism, fear, frustration, and a “we-they” mindset.

In the organizational trust formula, resistance is unique because it stands alone in the denominator; thus it is crucial to minimize it. Galford and Drapeau propose that resistance is best conquered by long-term action designed to directly address the issues behind the resistance.


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