Trust is Given Not Earned

I’m trying to navigate an offensive idea. Bob Chapman* told me, “Trust is given, not earned.” Thirty days later, it’s still dripping in the back of my mind.

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To trust or not:

I gave my friends an unscientific poll. The result was a three-way split. About 30% of my friends give trust to people who haven’t earned it. About 30% are skeptical and untrusting. I’m in that group.

The other 30% are in the “it depends” group. I think they’re untrusting but don’t want to admit it. But that’s my skeptical voice.

Distrust breeds:

  1. Suspicion and paranoia.
  2. Micromanagement and second guessing.
  3. Rules, sign-offs, and bureaucracy.
  4. Apprehension. Fear of taking action without permission.
  5. Skepticism. Distrust assumes negative intentions.

Distrust feels like protection but it’s destruction.

Bitterness and self-protection drive distrust. Someone violated your trust, and you can’t let it go.

The opposite of trust:

The opposite of trust is self-protection.

Distrust is fear’s response to vulnerability. Self-protection builds walls that limit influence, impact, relationship, and fulfillment.

There is no leadership apart from trust.

Leadership and trust:

Trust expands influence.

Successful leadership depends on trust. You’re constantly putting your confidence in others. The best you can do, if you don’t trust, is be an individual contributor.

Trust enhances leadership.

Steven M.R. Covey said, “When trust is low, speed decreases and cost increases.” Leadership without trust is micro-management.

Bottom line:

Trust is always given.

It doesn’t matter the context. In the end, trust is about the person extending it. If someone violates your trust, you expect them to earn it back. But, the choice to trust them again is really about you.

Even when you expect someone to earn your trust, you still end up giving it.

Wide is better than narrow when it comes to trust. But how? 

  1. Extend trust first.
  2. Assume the best.
  3. Be vulnerable.
  4. Forgive.

How do leaders learn to trust?

*Bob is Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a combination of nearly 70 acquired companies valued at approximately $2 billion with 9,000 employees.

Bob’s book: Everybody Matters. (MUST READING!)

Book website:

Twitter: @barrywehmiller