The Power of Trust in Business

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With Louise Chaplin, Head of Board Practice at Eton Bridge Partners, I facilitated a fascinating round-table dinner event at Fortnum & Mason in June 2019 on the topic of Trust in Business. We held a vibrant discussion with a dozen Senior business leaders – Non Executive-Directors, CEOs & Chairman – on a number of different aspects of trust in business and the trustworthiness of leaders.


This rich debate on the topic of trust and trustworthiness highlighted the paradoxical nature and challenging role of ethical leadership in today’s uncertain and ambiguous world. The complexity of trust arguably lies at the very heart of its simplicity, which is based on the ability to build enduring, values-based and authentic human relationships, in bad times as well as good times, and to recognise the power of trust as a driver of high performance and growth.

But it’s not always easy to do this ethically and with integrity.  Five critical questions that I posed to the Leaders are highlighted below and you can read the key insights, examples and challenges  that emerged from the discussion here.

1 – How can leaders distinguish ethical from unethical ways to build trust? Is it ever appropriate to build trust unethically?

2 – How can leaders maintain and project appropriate levels of self-trust  and self-confidence? How can we expect others to trust us, if we don’t trust ourselves?

3 – If the two fundamental components of trustworthiness are motivation and competence, how can leaders demonstrate these in their day to day decision-making?

4 – The alignment between what leaders say, what they do and how they make others feel, is critical to building trust, yet it often becomes mis-aligned and trust is broken. What checks and balances can leaders put in place to safeguard the integrity of their actions and preserve trust?

5 – Does ethics inherently limit personal and/or organisational effectiveness? Must leaders sometimes choose between ethics and effectiveness?