Trust versus Mistrust


In today’s competitive world, leaders are always tempted to take the short cut to achieve results. Leaders are evaluated quarter to quarter and hence claim that they do not have the time to trust their people. Imagine if a mother told her kid that she did not have time and hence did not trust her children. Or the patient telling the doctor that she did not trust the doctor and hence took her own treatment. It could be disastrous.

Similarly, in real life, there can be no debate between trust and mistrust. In my view, leadership is built around Trust, Personal credibility and Values. I call this the Triangle of Leadership. Trust leads to Personal credibility and Personal credibility helps you live your values in life. Similarly Personal credibility leads to Trust and Trust helps you live your values. There is no way Mistrust can make you a sustainable leader.

Trust is the essence of life. Imagine a family where the spouses do not trust each other and the parents do not trust the children and vice versa. It would be hell in real life. Every day there will be conflicts and acrimonious exchanges even within members of the same family.

On the other hand, if we trust each other as spouses and trust our children, the returns are to be experienced to be believed. I can cite a personal experience. I have been married for thirty eight years now. I have never counted the money in my purse and left it open always at home. Neither my spouse nor my children have ever betrayed my trust. Trust begets trust and not the other way around.


It is equally true in communities, societies and nations. The best organisations of the world have lived and grown based on trust. The world’s oldest organisations have always promoted trust amongst all their stakeholders. Similarly, the best governments in the world survive and prosper only when they instil trust in their citizens. The day trust is lost, everything is lost.

It is high time leaders realise the best of talent will thrive only in an environment of trust. The day they realise that they are not trusted by their leaders, they will leave for better places to work. So, organisations and leaders have to realise that only a culture of trust attracts the best of talent to organisations.

There is always a thin line between trust and mistrust like the red barrier in the photo above.

I always wonder why leaders do not realise this simple formula in life. We have to lead by trust and swear by trust both in our personal and work lives. However, if anyone breaches your trust, then the consequences should also be vey clear. While accidental and unintentional breach of trust can be forgiven, people should realise that intentional and repeated breach of trust will have dire consequences for them. This will also promote a culture of trust.

It is time to lead by trust always.


S Ramesh Shankar


24th Jan 2020

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