Monday, 18 April 2011

Defining Trust

As a leader, do you trust others and are you trustworthy? 

Most people rely on an intuitive feel of what is meant when we say that we trust someone.  Trust is difficult to define because it is so complex.  It is a multifaceted construct, meaning that there are many elements or drivers of an overall level of trust.  Trust may vary somewhat depending on the context of the trust relationship.  It is also dynamic in that it can change over the course of a relationship, as expectations are either fulfilled or disappointed and as the nature of the interdependence between two people changes.  Reoccuring themes emerged as I examined various definitions of trust in the literature, which led me to the following definition:  Trust is one's willingness to be vulnerable to another based on the confidence that the other is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent (Mishra, 1996; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 1998, 2000)

From:  Trust Matters by Megan Tschannen-Moran
Published by: Jossey-Bass


  1. Trust is a two-way street. If we want to be trustworkthy, we need to be able trust. This at most times means being vulnerable. The idea of being vulnerable can be a bit scary; especially in leadership. The rewards of building trust are great. If we're able to create an "culture of trust" in our schools, I believe it will lead to open and honest conversation which in term will lead to buliding relationship -- which forms the foundation for strong leadership.

    Personally, I believe one of the worst things we can do as human beings, is betray a trust. Once, you betray a trust, it is very difficult (at times impossible) to rebuild.

  2. You have really captured some interesting ideas here. I agree that leadership and vulnerability almost seem to be at odds. I wonder what this would look like as a leader? I guess it's what they said above. It comes from being benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent.

    I think your comment about betraying trust is a really good one. It can take a long time to build trust but only a moment to lose it.

  3. Your comments about trust relating to leadership and vulnerability are important. As leaders we must build trust and capacity in schools to create a positive school climate. As strong leaders we need to be honest and build these trustworthy relationships. At times this may make us more vulnerable. However if we can have direct, respectful, honest conversations, hopefully we can grow these relationships and avoid the betrayal of trust. As you said it is very hard to rebuild trust once it has been taken away.

  4. It seems that there should be a level of understood trust in a professional relationship between educators. As a leader, it is essential to build relationships and to mentor interactions based on this trust among and with all stakeholders in a school setting. It would be important to analyse the type of trust being given and expected within the school environment and to establish this understanding.

  5. It's interesting how it always seems to come back to the relationships!

  6. "Trust is one's willingness to be vulnerable to another based on the confidence that the other is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent"
    I had never thought about trust as having traits that could be observable by others. I always thought of it as being based on an internal feeling one has for another--something that we give to another without thought or question. Of course, if one breaks another's trust it then becomes something lost--perhaps permanently. The quote suggests that you earn trust by demonstrating traits that give another confidence in your abilities. Is this the same as trust? I'm not sure...

  7. Kandheepan, I echo your statement that "once you betray trust it is very difficult to rebuild". To establish and gain rapport and trust can be quite difficult and onerous especially depending on the staff that you are working with. And yet, it can be gone in seconds, often with no chance of repair.
    I believe that transparency is crucial in gaining the trust of a staff you are leading. If people feel that you are being honest and sharing in the priority of student needs, then it is easier to trust and find commonality with those you are leading.