Leadership Potential: Earning Trust

This is another installment to the Leadership Potential series that I created a few weeks ago. As a reminder, part of this series is to remember that we are all leaders to an extent. We have influence in places we least expect and we need to make sure we take advantage of those moments. You may never know who is looking up to you at church, your place of work, or in your group of friends. 

As a small group leader, I try so hard to relate to those I find myself pouring into. I want them to understand what I am trying to tell them about God and at the same time hold a loving relationship with these people. It’s not always easy to find those common traits and interests. There always comes a point when someone doesn’t necessarily reciprocate the same feelings or ideas, either. Or they simply don’t respond. Over the last year that I was in school. I lead a small group as part of a campus ministry. One of the men that I met seemed to want to know God, but he would never open up to me. He would always hang around, though. I just wasn’t sure if he would respond to the more difficult decisions like repentance, baptism, a devotional lifestyle, discipleship, and so on.

Around this time, another friend and mentor gave me some advice that I thought was perfect timing. He told me that in order to have someone respond to suggestions or advice, they need to place you in a form of authority and that can only happen through trust. Whether that’s a friend, someone you’re mentoring, or an employee, they will not listen or take your advice if trust is not involved.

John Maxwell, a great leader, pastor, and entrepreneur says that trust works like loose change; You’re always getting more of it or losing it. The amount you have is determined by the decisions you make and for every mistake there is, the more change you begin to lose. In his book, Leadership 101, he says, “When you’re out of change, you’re out as a leader.” This is not a good thing to hear no matter what position you are in.

Maxwell also emphasizes that you can’t take shortcuts as a leader. I’ll add in that this also fits in any friendship. You will not automatically become someone’s lover or best friend without a large amount of needed time. To gain someone’s trust as a boss, mentor, or friend, it will take time to earn, yet it is one of the fastest and easiest things to lose. That’s why I saw this to be crucial in my relationship with my small group member. I’m trying to take advantage of the time we have without doing something stupid that can be as small as making him uncomfortable by sharing something in front of others. Be diligent to make the right decision for the right pocket change.


Speak in a language they’ll understand.

In an article by Business Insider, FBI agent, Robin Dreeke states that he learned to abandon the infamous “golden rule” of “Do unto others as you want them done unto you (Matthew 7:12).” In turn, he learned and began to practice what he calls the “platinum rule”, which is to, “Treat others as they want to be treated. Talk in terms of what’s important to them, in a way they can readily understand, and they’ll be more inclined to give you what you want.” I’d say that, for the most part, this is a good rendition of what Jesus taught with the golden rule.

What I take that Dreeke is trying to say is to treat others with respect as you want to have it done to yourself, but speak to them in their language. Trust is not gained when someone feels as if you are talking to them as a different person. If the receiver of the conversation feels that you are trying to relate to their circumstances and are trying to be sincere in your words, it helps you gain the trust that you seek.

Show them that you care by speaking their language. In my experience with small group leading, I learned to do what the other person wants to do… as long as it morally and biblically right, of course. If the person likes video games, you play video games with them. If they like to skate, you learn to skate. You play in their field where they feel most comfortable. That is where they are most vulnerable and appreciative because you care enough to do what they want. It shows that you really care because you are going out of your way to gain a relationship, which in turn, creates trust. I understand that this is not very applicable in the workplace. You can’t start playing video games in any office or learning how to skate at every job. This can be replaced with endearing conversations of what the other person likes. If your employee likes football, learn a bit about their favorite team. Be sincere about it.

“You don’t build trust by talking about it, You build it by achieving results, always with integrity and in a manner that shows real personal regard for the people with whom you work.” – John Maxwell

Where the Platinum Rule fails

The reason why I mentioned that I “mostly” agree with the platinum rule is that I think it fails at the end of the definition provided on the Business Insider article, “…and they’ll be more inclined to give you what you want.” It’s a good definition until you notice the motive behind the action. It’s basically a selfish act of kindness. I don’t see this as a positive result of gaining someone’s trust. It’s disingenuine. Plus, it’s unbiblical. That’s what matters in the end, right? We need to love others as God loves us.

Part of treating them equally and relating to them is having them understand that you’re not being nice to them just to get something in return. If they see you as just “selfish”, it will hurt your integrity, not only as a leader but as a friend.

Someone will not help you or open up to you if they don’t trust you. They don’t know what will happen if they make themselves vulnerable with you. In our day and age, gossip and irresponsibility are major issues. And unfortunately, you can’t escape these defects anywhere, including the church. That is not good. we need to take an extra step so people realize that, as leaders, we are genuine.

Finally, if you don’t have a good heart or intentions, don’t take my advice. If you do all of these things just to get something in return, as I mentioned, then you are not on track. It’s not making you Leadership Potential as this post entails. A successful leader is one who cares, not only for the organization but for the people in it, too.

I know that there is so much more that trust is about, so what do you do to earn someone’s trust? I’m curious to know what you think. Where are you having trouble with this concept?

Are you Leadership Potential?


Make sure you follow me on Twitter or Instagram with my handle @Juanlm1331 so you can see all the random stuff I do in life.

3 thoughts on “Leadership Potential: Earning Trust

  1. Pingback: Bread of Life

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