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Leadership Trustworthiness:
How Far Can They Throw You?

Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.
[About the Author]

(For individual use only, not to be reproduced or used in any way without permission)

Trust has declined in three out of four workplaces in the past two years, according to a survey conducted by Manchester Consulting, Jacksonville, Florida. The level of trust in the workplace received a rating of 5 on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent). "Trust in corporate America is at a low point," says Lew Stern, Senior Vice President. *

Based on our experience and research, there is no single variable which so thoroughly influences interpersonal behavior as does trust. Without it you cannot lead, build a relationship, or influence others. In self-directed teams, trust takes the place of leadership. You have to consciously work at building and maintaining this precious commodity. You will be judged by what you do, not what you say. Trust is questioned where personal risk and vulnerability are present. Picture yourself in a leadership role, where others depend on your decisions, they are vulnerable. Trustworthy leaders are trustworthy people and mentors.

How would others evaluate your leadership behavior in the following ten situations?

1. Your company has recently sold a product line that will result in transfers, job reassignments, and possible layoffs for your group. In making these personnel decisions, will your leader:

A. Go to extremes to be fair and do the right thing, even if this is counter to the "company line"
B. Set up an evaluation process for everyone, but personal friends
C. Do what is politically correct and pleasing to top management

2. Customer demands require that one person in your department works on Christmas day. Will your leader:

A. Decide who will work based on who has the lowest seniority in the department
B. Offer to work unless someone else needs to work that day
C. Set up a rotation where everyone in the department, including the leader, will take a turn working this holiday

3. Your leader has committed to helping you keep your life and work in better balance by being more realistic in their goals, priorities, and deadlines. What’s your guess:

A. They will put forth a good effort but, with time, start to make exceptions
B. Sounds good, but the next time upper management and/or the client puts the heat on it will be back to "crunch" time and business as usual
C. Regardless of what happens, you are convinced that your leader will honor their commitments.

4. You received a lower performance evaluation and salary increase than expected. When you ask you leader to explain will they:

A. Be forthright, honest, and truthful with their explanation
B. Be uncomfortable telling you only part of the reasons
C. Answer in a way that makes you think they are not being honest

5. Having just attended a fair well lunch/party for a close associate, you return to the office and are called for your random drug test. Two glasses of wine punch at lunch, no surprise, a small amount of alcohol is detected. Will your leader:

A. Strictly adhere to company policy and put you on a leave of absence
B. After a discussion, realize that this is a one off situation, exercise good judgment, and ignore the test
C. Recommend that you enroll in the company’s employee assistance counseling program

6. Your first formal presentation to the top management committee isn’t going well at all, in fact you have lost it. Will your leader:

A. Ask for the presentation to be reschedule so "you can be better prepared"
B. Let you sink, and ask embarrassing questions, knowing that this is how lasting lessons are learned
C. Jump in to protect, support, and encourage you in a way that allows you to save face

7. There are rumors floating around about a significant change in direction and reorganization for your department. When asked, your leader:

A. Can be counted on to freely share all the information and ideas available
B. Will tell you only what they think you need to know
C. Will discuss the changes only after they have been announced

8. You have observed your leader in a variety of situations. How would you describe what your leader’s behavior will be in an upcoming critical client meeting?

A. You haven’t a clue, each day is a new day
B. Very predictable, there is little doubt in your mind how they will behave in various situations
C. Since this is a new client, you think you know how they will behave but you are less than 60% sure of your predictions

9. Having known and worked with your leader for a number of years, would you say:

A. Their record is sporadic, sometimes they could be trusted, sometimes not
B. Are you kidding, not knowing what I know about this person
C. History indicates that they can be trusted implicitly

10. A decision needs to be made that will have a huge impact on your career and the direction of the department. Will your leader:

A. Respect and treat you as an equal partner in making this decision
B. Consult with and listen to your input then make the decision by themselves
C. As the boss, analyze the facts in the situation, seek little input, and then make the decision they think is best


1.   A=10, B=5, C=2 Implementing and abiding by procedures that treat everyone fairly will increase the trust others have in you. Not showing favorites, being willing to take a stand for fairness are critical elements of this dimension of trust.
2. A=2, B=10, C=5 How concerned are you with the goodwill and interests of others? Actions that place their self interests before yours is a strong indicator of your genuine concern and sensitivity to their self interests.
3. A=5, B=2, C=10 Can you be counted on to keep your commitments in both the good and bad times? You can’t trust someone who says one thing and does the other or when pressured, conveniently forgets their commitments.
4. A=10, B=5, C=2 How would others rate your integrity? Two key elements in their conclusions would be your reputation for honesty and truthfulness even when this might be uncomfortable. How could others trust someone who is dishonest or tells only half truths?
5. A=2, B=10, C=5 Your consistency, reliability, predictability, and good judgement in handling situations will tell others that you can be trusted. Do you temper all of this with good judgement? Can you be counted on to "do what is right" even in the face of contradictory circumstances.
6. A=5, B=2, C=10 Other’s trust in you will increase if they see you as loyal and willing to protect, support and encourage them. Exhibiting caring compassion, running interference, and allowing you to experiment in an environment that is non threatening to your self image.
7. A=10, B=5, C=2 You can be trusted to be open, accessible, and share ideas and information freely with others. Can you be counted on for truthful information? Withholding information causes others to be suspicious of your motives and loss trust in you.
8. A=5, B=2, C=10 Are you predictable, reliable and responsive in a caring way? How can other trust someone whose actions are random? No way!
9. C=10, A=5, B=2 An indicator of how much trust others can place in you is your track record. History does repeat itself. Ask yourself if the evidence supports the case for others trusting you.
10. A=10, B=5, C=2 Trust is reciprocal. Through your words and actions do you openly show others that you trust and respect them when it really counts? If you don’t trust them, how can you expect them to trust you? Not!

Your score, How Far Can They Throw You?

80-100 Zero gravity, if thrown you will fly. Your actions are consistent regardless of the person, place, or event. You care for others, are consistent, do the right things regardless of personal risk and exude integrity. Congratulations, others find working with you a unique and rewarding experience.
50-80 A rock, sometimes you skip along the surface, sometimes you sink. Your closest confidants can trust you, others are not sure, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The word is consistency. Seek out and change those actions that are sending mixed signals if you want higher levels of trust from others.
20-50 An anvil, they can’t even pick you up, let alone throw you. You probably find others become quiet when you walk in the room, seem to weigh their words, and begrudgingly share information with you. You often feel lonely, the good news is you can change. Look over the quiz and ask how you can start to behave in a more trustworthy fashion.

*Training & Development, December 1997, pp. 11.

About the Quiz

By, Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D., CEO, the Center for Coaching & Mentoring, Inc., a firm devoted to training and consultation in Team Work, Coaching, Leadership, and Quality. Co-author of Teamwork: We Have Met The Enemy and They Are Us, The Coach: Creating Partnerships for a Competitive Edge, and Win Win Partnerships: Be On The Leading Edge With Synergistic Coaching.

For more information call (918) 333-6609

Contact Matt Starcevich at
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