Being Vulnerable and Getting to Know Others Builds Trust

Before Psychological Safety, here’s what leadership authors were sharing

Gary A. DePaul, PhD (he/him/his)


Sinek quote: building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth. That’s it…

In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek explains that building trust only requires being truthful. This includes:

  • Acknowledging mistakes rather than ignoring or downplaying them.
  • Crediting others for their contributions rather than taking credit unfairly.
  • Admitting when things are going wrong such as knowing that a project is behind schedule and letting others know as well as explaining why.

Being truthful also involves personal disclosures. In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner write about how building trust involves sharing about yourself.

To become fully trusted, you must be open to and with others. This means disclosing things about yourself in order to build the basis for a relationship. This means telling others the same things you’d like to know about them — talking about your hopes and dreams, your family and friends, your interests and your pursuits.

— Kouzes and Posner

Doing so requires you to take the risk that others won’t use the information to somehow harm you. Someone has to begin risking himself or herself, and Kouzes and Posner state that those who practice leadership need to open up and be vulnerable. They need to give up controlling the relationship.

Once you start showing vulnerability, trusting begins, and it continues to build. However, Kouzes and Posner caution that, while groups can build trust contagiously, they can likewise build distrust contagiously.

Kouzes & Posner building trust quote: willing to risk being first to open up, to show vulnerability…Leaders go first.

Without Trust, It Is Difficult to Maintain Relationships

Kouzes and Posner, as well as James Hunter (The Servant), write that you cannot maintain…