Leadership Behaviors that Build Trust with Followers


Trust is a gift to leaders by their followers.  Followers trust based on a leader’s behavior, not their high-sounding words or pithy creeds.   Genuinely excellent leaders  understand that while leadership success and significance require technical skills, the more important skills are people competencies…skills that play out in specific behaviors that assure maximum productivity by leaders and their followers.  In this article, we will explore certain key behaviors, namely how truly great leaders are:

 Authentic, transparent and vulnerable;

Personally involved and covenant-based in relationships;

Passionate, compassionate and empathetic;

Confident, hopeful, strong and joyful;

Truth-centered communicators;

Honorable and accountable; and


Authentic, Transparent and Vulnerable

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ. Paul

The old nature in each of us wants to hide and conceal who we really are…our character…and our fears, weaknesses and agendas.  Consequently, we portray a self-serving persona of who we want others to think we are.  We seek to build a reputation that belies who we really are.  Some call that good marketing and being clever and savvy.  But, in reality it is hypocrisy, dishonesty and pretension.

In contrast, Jesus was sincere, totally open and “for real”.  What you saw and heard was who he really was, not some fabrication for show.  For example, Jesus readily acknowledged when he was tired, when he was pained and when he was troubled and afraid. He was authentic, transparent and vulnerable.

Like him, truly exceptional leaders are fully self-aware, free of all deceit or intent to mislead, play it straight, willing to show their real self and open to critique by those they know will be honest with them.  They are intentionally and purposefully clear and unambiguous, rather than fuzzy and disingenuous regarding all things…including their mission and expectations.  And they quail fears with confidence and faith in God.  Consequently, they are given and keep the trust of followers and build the unity required to fulfill the vision and purpose of the family, business and other organizations they are privileged to lead.

Personally Involved and Covenant-based in Relationships

In natural love, absence often makes the heart grow fonder.   However, in leadership, literal and figurative absence can have serious negative ramifications.  In contrast, ongoing personal connectedness can lead to significant positive results.  This is why superb leaders emulate Jesus, by building and maintaining healthy and harmonious personal relationships.  Like him, they realize the key to that is not a cosmetic, distance approach but intimacy achieved via presence, nearness and commitment.  And like Jesus, they are covenant-based in their approach to people, relationships and their commitments.  They have the God-given desire to go beyond the legal letter of the law to selfless commitment to serving and caring for others according to unchanging Truth.

Christ-like leaders possess the God-imparted ability to relate well to, work well with and serve and care for others.  Family, workplace and personal relationships built on love and presence are their priorities.  Like The Leader, they practice the ABCs of nurturing and nourishing intimate, trusting relationships:

A)                Being approachable.  They create an atmosphere of openness, by maintaining open door and mind policies.  This includes being open to correction themselves…from those they lead and from their inner circle of Spirit-led peers, leaders and mentors;

B)                 Being available. The way and frequency a leader connects with others significantly affects results.  People follow leaders who remain connected, who ask questions, who really listen with their heart and always show appreciation by recognizing the talents and contributions of those entrusted to their care.  Like Christ, outstanding leaders don’t view people as an imposition on their time, but as opportunities to serve.  As he was, they are high-touch, more than high-tech individuals.  They are not afraid of intimacy.  They know closeness does not lead to loss of importance, control or power.  They recognize those are myths and therefore, are available to and diligently initiate contact with those they lead. There are many benefits to this conscientious, partnership approach, including opportunity to recognize needs and conflicts and timely respond to both;

C)                 Leading by The Golden Rule.  Practicing the One Indispensable Rule of Truth includes giving followers spiritual and emotional support.  It also means trusting, extending grace and rather than cornering, fanging or nailing them, picking them up when they fall and being gracious and giving them space and the benefit of the doubt.  This mutual trust between leaders and followers is healthy trust that keeps confidential matters confidential.  It uses the power of position only in appropriate scenarios, doing so privately and with godly sensitivity and wisdom.  And mutual trust builds group relationships that maximize harmony and unity, while minimizing conflicts and division.

Passionate, Compassionate and Empathetic

The Lord taketh pleasure in his people. —David

There is no part of his followers concerns and needs that Jesus does not empathetically identify with, passionately consider and compassionately care for.  Far above his own, he is concerned about our welfare.  Everything that concerns us concerns him.  He is an emotionally present and compassionate leader, passionately about the business of identifying the concerns and needs of those entrusted to his care and providing the tools and resources to address and meet them.

Jesus is all about and concerned with the details of the lives of his followers. We can rest assured that his warm heart affectionately and tenderly cares about anything and everything needful for us to live up to all our God-possibilities…in our lives and leadership roles in our families, businesses and all personal and organizational forums.  Scripture says that like a father pitieth his children, so does Jesus have empathy for his followers.  He is a pain bearer, not a pain giver. His heart breaks when ours break and he weeps when we mourn. The riches of his goodness and kindness are unsearchable and his empathy, passion and compassion so great, he gave his life for us…his followers.  His death is the supreme example of unselfish and sacrificial service for the sake of the well-being of others.  It is the highest and greatest example of genuine love.  Oh, the breadth of the love of Christ, the ultimate Caretaker leader.

Extraordinary leaders Follow The Leader.  They model his love, kindness, tenderness, thoughtfulness and zeal in empathetically identifying with, passionately protecting and compassionately caring fortheir followers.  They are not fearful or guarded about expressing those in any setting, including business.  They erect no walls around when and where they will express their empathy, compassion and passion.  If we want to be among those trusted leaders, we begin by thinking beyond ourselves.  We never ever underestimate the heaven and earth-moving power of sincerely loving and caring for others.  I encourage you to always empathetically put yourself in others’ shoes and passionately and compassionately put their needs and concerns first.  Help and support them and your rewards will be trust, joy and excellent results!

Confident, Hopeful, Strong and Joyful

In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength… they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall
walk, and not faint.—Isaiah   My faith does not rest on God’s promises. My faith rests upon God’s character. Faith must rest in confidence upon the One who made the promises. A.W. Tozer  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit…We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who gives us the victory. —Paul.

Because they were supremely confident in and dependent on God rather than themselves, Isaiah, A.W. Tozer and Paul were three of history’s greatest leaders.  Like them, highly skilled leaders are quiet towers of strength whose confidence and hope are derived from their personal relationship with, uncommon faith in and trust of God.  Their lives and leadership fearlessly declare their allegiance to, alignment with and reliance on him and reflect time spent resting quietly and patiently before him, waiting for his guidance.

These superb leaders do not ooze false bravado or boast about themselves or their abilities and skills.  Instead, they brag and rely on God.  They do not walk or run alone, but with and beside him. He strengthens and empowers them to soar with him.  His presence creates an inward joy and calm that manifest outwardly.  Their vibrant countenance, the humble way they carry themselves and their positive outlook, expectations and behavior all radiate his sure hope and optimism.

Outstanding leaders have a spring in their step and a highly contagious zeal, zest and enthusiasm for life.  Those and their inward quietness and outward poise lead to confidence and trust by their followers.  These leaders validate that confidence and trust by using the supernatural energy and competencies gained through interactive co-operation with God to selflessly serve those he entrusts to their care.

Truth-Centered Communicator

Truly wise people use few words and are even-tempered… Life and death are in the power of the tongue.—Solomon  Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. —Jesus

Some say that words have no power and sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.  Nothing could be further from the Truth.  Words and all manner of communication can bring life or death, trust or doubt and constructive or destructive results…personally, relationally and organizationally.

Scripture is clear.  We are accountable to God for every word we communicate.  It is a commandment, not an option that we should not engage in idle conversations or loose and coarse communication and should always use the gift of communication to edify, encourage and lift others up.  Nothing corrupts people, the environment and organizations as quickly and as decisively as cursing or communication that is deceptive, harsh, false flattery, insincere or prejudicial. Such ungodly communication is a rapidly spreading, deadly poison that debilitates and impairs.  Conversely, godly communication….modest, God-centered, Spirit-imparted, grace expressive and scenario appropriate … is the food and drink that nourish and nurture.  The ROI (return on investment) of godly communication is out of this world!  It lifts spirits and builds individuals, relationships and organizations.  Godly communication keeps Truth’s core values at the forefront and creates and perpetuates the infectiously positive atmosphere required for progressive personal, relationship and organizational growth.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.—Francis of Assisi

To be given trust by followers, a leader needs to be a spiritually and emotionally mature individual.  If they are, they are a Truth-centered communicator.  That Christ-like characteristic is best seenin their words and whether they listen…first and foremost for and to God…with the heart, not merely the mind.  That was Jesus’ priority communication habit. By listening for and to God and then interactively co-operating with him, leaders develop the hearing, speaking and writing skills required to live and lead by Jesus’ Caretaker Leadership Paradigm.  Like he did, they understand that careless words and listening and inaccurate or dishonest information can lead to unwise communication, erosion of trust, fear instead of confidence and bad decisions.

Truth-centered communicators realize that to get someone to follow them, they must be able to communicate well and passionately.   And to get something done well, followers need timely access to all information required for success.  Full and good communication educates and frees them to perform roles well, but poor communication confuses and cripples.

Be slow to speak, quick to listen. —James

Last but not least, Truth-centered communicators know that listening with their heart lets others know they and their thoughts, feelings and opinions are important.  They know they cannot lead well or long, without continually listening well and when they do speak, expressing themselves in a nonabrasive and affirming manner.

These superlative leaders follow Biblically-based guidelines of communication.  They:

Say thank you often; Ask nicely; Timely respond; Carefully choose words, tone and body language; Are respectful of others’ time and thus, communicate with them only about what affects and interests them.  “Powder-puff ”  their communication; Wear“heart-held elephant ears” in every conversation; Are fully present and don’t interrupt;  Listen to feedback to assure intended messages are received;  Before responding, restate and confirm audience questions.

Align verbal and written communication with Truth; Emphasize clarity, simplicity and freely share accurate and honest information.

Think before speaking or writing; Take time to understand the audience’s attitudes, backgrounds and beliefs and factor those in when preparing a message; Practice verbal messages, before delivering them.  Show personal responsibility by using the first person singular;  Use the same words consistently and explain them and their logic thoroughly; Repeat key items to assure the audience understands; Invite them to ask questions and make comments; Graciously field questions and provide kind responses;  Are honest, if they don’t have answers…and assure others that answers will be found and communicated; Provide frequent progress updates that are clear, concise and specific; Never respond in emotionally out of control ways.

Compliment and show appreciation to those who do things well; Celebrate triumphs; Use every opportunity to give deserved encouragement and praise…publicly and privately…always citing specific behaviors or results; Correct others mistakes in pleasant ways, using them as opportunities to mentor and coach Truth; Do not expect or demand perfection, but exhort each person to live up to their potential in God;  Are effective mediators and peacemakers who tear down walls, build bridges and create goodwill between estranged parties; Know silence is sometimes golden.

Trust Requires More

Truth-centered communication by leaders is only step one toward gaining and maintaining trust. Verbal and written communication must be linked directly to consistent Christ-like examples.  “Do as I say, not as I do,” is not a strategy that will assure followers give leaders their trust.  Godly guidance and influence by godly example are the most important of all functions of leadership.  Off and on the job, the behavior of virtuous leaders match their words.  As truly great leaders, they walk their talk, practice what they preach and never ask others to do something that the leader is unwilling to do.  They understand, their followers need godly models not unwise critics.  Therefore, at home, on the job and in every setting, superb leaders take seriously James Philip Cline’s poem: To ALittle Boy’s Father:

There are little eyes upon you and they’re watching night and day;
There are little ears that quickly
take in everything you say.
There are little hands all eager to do
everything you do, and a little boy who
is dreaming of the day he will be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol; You’re the
wisest of the wise. In his little mind
about you no suspicions ever rise.
He believes in you devoutly, holds all
that you say and do. He will say and do in
your way when he is grown up, just like you.
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow who
believes your always right, and his ears are
always open, and he watches day and night.
You are setting an example every day in all
you do. For the little boy who is waiting
to grow up and be like you.

The measure of truly great leaders is how well they have modeled The Leader…Jesus.

Honorable and Accountable

Integrity is the most important characteristic of a leader.—Warren Bennis

Lack of integrity will destroy trust quicker than anything else.  To be convinced, one need only look at a long history of very public failures of prominent, self-serving leaders…in the business, political, educational and religious worlds.  In contrast, followers notice and trust leaders with pure hearts, integrity and strong convictions about Truth.  They are Christ-like, others-focused individuals who refuse to bend rules, cut corners, take shortcuts or spin stories.  They are honest and always step up to do what is right and best serves all.  Out of clean hearts, the best leaders have a keen sense of right principles and obligations and hold themselves accountable to meeting them.  They highly value integrity, uprightness and faithfulness.  Those are at their inner core.  They believe their word is their bond, insist on keeping it and do everything above-board.  They think honesty is the only policy because it honors God and God honors honesty.  Their moral integrity is invaluable at all times…especially stormy ones, because followers trust and believe they can and will navigate them through the turbulent waters to safety.

Leaders who have built their leadership on pillars of honor and accountability consistently do what needs to be done when it needs to be done…whether they feel like it or not and even if it has the potential to harm them.   Whether it involves big or small things, they know honor and accountability make an important difference.  Leaders of integrity consistently do big and obvious things and also do right things, when no one’s looking.  They are genuinely good people who deal well and equitably with others. They always put first things first.  Sometimes, that involves large things and at other times, it’s small stuff.  For example, they always say thank you.  These outstanding leaders insist on candor, fair play and will not compromise conscience nor be quiet when someone is treated unjustly.  They fearlessly take a stand and don’t back down.  When things go wrong, they are out front, don’t make excuses or point fingers, but personally take responsibility and the heat.  They are first to apologize, but don’t stop there.  They promptly take steps to correct problems according to God’s standards… and make sure they do not reoccur.  And, they give authority needed to empower their followers to make similar, on-the-spot decisions, without having to ask permission or approval of their leader.


Serve each other with humble spirits, for God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets Himself against those who are proud.  If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in His good time, He will lift you up. —Peter

I thought you might enjoy a little entertainment before the serious stuff about true humility.  So here goes.   In the year before we married, I wanted more frequent dates with Patty than my father and mother would fund…through free use of the family car and enough money to buy gas, food and occasional movie tickets.  So, in a moment of complete idiocy, I came up with this novel idea to have my parents reward me with my own car.  Rejected and hot under the collar, my unhealthy pride led me to take their advice to get a job…if I wanted my own transportation.  You can probably imagine how little free time I had to see my honey, considering I was a fulltime college student and had to work a forty-hour week to make the payments on a just gotta have, hot red Impala Super Sport.  Actually it was a piece of junk that virtually disintegrated a few months into our marriage.

That forced us to shop for another car.  Between Patty and my income and a sense we needed to go for longer vehicle life and greater reliability, we decided to shop for a new car.  In demonstration of my complete lack of humility, and much to Patty’s chagrin, I declared to the sales rep that I was virtually moments away from becoming a CPA and rudely suggested he keep his facts and figures to himself…because I was obviously quite the math expert.  I proceeded to strut around the car lot like a peacock, kicking tires, asking stupid questions and pretending to be something that I most definitely was not.  Patty was humiliated by my foolish behavior.  Nevertheless, she kept her leadership cool.  She and the humble rep got beyond my arrogance to make a good deal on a Chevy Camaro that served us well.

I was a living picture of unhealthy pride and complete lack of genuine modesty. It took some time, very painful experiencesthat significantly reduced my “bighead” size and God working on the inside of me to realize those truths.  But, as shared in several other personal stories, when I came to my senses and honestly evaluated self vs. God, I saw some very ugly and humbling things.  I was not submitted to or in partnership with God.  Therefore, I was extremely prideful, weak, powerless, untrustworthy and without the right resources and skills to live and lead well.  The closer I get to him, the clearer the vast distance and difference between God and me becomes.  Makes me fall on my knees in awe and worship of the only self-existent and infinite being who is sole possessor of the know-how, spiritual, emotional and mental skill and supernatural power we need, if we want to be genuinely difference-making leaders who leave the mark of God on every life we touch.

When our eyes are wide open, we realize God alone is the only truly great One.  But the great news is, if we accept his magnanimous, standing invitation to interactively co-operate with his indwelling Spirit, we can be God’s stage for displaying himself and his greatness!  When we accept, genuine humility is one of the deepest and most obvious Christ-like impressions that the Holy Spirit leaves in our inward being.  That internal image of Jesus manifests outwardly in a humble life and approach to leadership that worships and boasts about God not self.  It is clearly discernible in Jesus-like behavior…quiet, mild-mannered, gracious, patient, kind, gentle and good conduct that is the fruit of his inliving Spirit.  True humility is not belittling ourselves, but rather it is a choice to subordinate self-will to God’s will and let his bigness shine through us.  It is a reflection of a self-emptied heart under his control, concerned about what he is concerned about, all about pleasing him and thus, willing to step aside, get out of his way so his will is done in and through us.  This “for real” humility grabs God’s attention in a substantially positive way.  When his eyes notice it, his blessings are on the one whose heart is truly humble.

In contrast, God hates selfish pride, the negative posture of our old nature toward him.  Why?  Two big reasons.  First, self-glorifying pride is the manifestation of desire to be God and instead of being dependent on him, being a self-dependent, self-sufficient, self-aggrandizing island to ourselves.  The negative consequences of this unhealthy brand of pride are beyond words to describe!   The second reason God hates the sin of unhealthy pride is what it does to us…it kills personal spiritual growth and progress as a leader and thereby, deprives us of God’s best for us…and all those he entrusts to our leadership care.   Contrary to popular opinion and teaching, unhealthy pride does not lead to progress.  It leads to fear, self-reliance, controlling behavior, spiritual decline and ultimately, decline in all ways.  That is because God’s blessing is simply not on a leader or anyone who is self-secure, boastful and proud of themselves and their God-independent accomplishments.  Truth is, they are living far below their potential IN Christ.

Closing Food for Thought

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek, and lowly in heart. —Jesus When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died; My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood. See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. —Isaac Watts

Genuine humility was one of Jesus’ most remarkable qualities. Humility and all the Jesus-like traits, attitudes and behaviors discussed in this chapter are why billions have trusted and followed him.   They are not weaknesses, but rather reflections of poise, strength and emotional and spiritual stability needed to assure a leader brings glory to God.


The post above is an excerpt from Cecil O. Kemp Jr.’s 27th book titled: Follow The Leader (Secrets to Being a Genuinely DifferenceMaking Leader) to buy it, and Cecil's other books, go here.