Transformational Trust

The triquetra, also known as the celtic knot, is used to symbolize how a leader can build The Circle of Trust. It is a dynamic process that evolves and flows.  There is no beginning and no ending. Trust is complex and is an interlaced pattern reflecting  all areas of leadership.

Circle of Trust Circle of Trust copy larger


Trust is the foundation for teamwork, collaboration, learning cultures, and a healthy organization.Trust is a source of fascination with leaders and organizations. The three key components in building The Circle of Trust are self-awareness, communication, and energy. In order to create the right environment to foster trust, a leader would need to “show trust to build trust; say we, ask questions, listen, and take advice; and get people interacting” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 247). Transformational leaders are authentic, self-aware, have a clear vision, and are passionate, which motivates others.


To build trust it requires a leader to be self-aware. This self-awareness includes emotional awareness, the ability to trust oneself, openness to reflection and scrutiny, and a lot of practice. Self-awareness helps a leader better understand what matters. Drucker (2008) found that managing oneself by understanding individual strengths and values was crucial: “To be effective in an organization, a person’s values must be compatible with the organization’s values” (p. 11). Basing decisions on a shared understanding and a common vision, would build capacity and avoid conflicts. A leader who understands his or her own vision and values is better able to guide the emotions of a group.

What people value is linked to their emotions. Goleman et al. (2004) have linked the pleasure of what motivates a person to the brain’s prefrontal area, which monitors feelings and emotions: “Self-awareness means having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, as well as one’s strengths and limitations and one’s values and motives” (Self-Awareness section, para. 1). Reflection and thoughtfulness are also aspects of being self-aware. To be self-aware and develop personal mastery, Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, and Smith (1994) suggested following Robert Fritz’s three-stage process: articulate a personal vision, have a clear picture of the current reality clearly, and make a commitment to create the results you want (p. 194). It is important for a leader to have a personal vision first and then cocreate a shared vision.


Communication is an essential component in creating trust because it is important to convey a shared vision and to be able to communicate in times of crisis. A transformational leader can communicate a shared vision that sets the stage for collaboration and mutual effort, especially in times of change (Sullivan, Orchard, & Umoquit, 2011). It is essential for leaders to understand the mental models by using dialogue, advocacy, and inquiry and by sharing information.

Lencioni (2012) discussed how creating clarity allows little room for “possible confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in” (Discipline 2, “What’s it Worth,” para. 6). It important to overcommunicate to ensure clarity: “Effective communication requires that key messages come from different sources and through various channels, using a variety of tools” (Discipline 3, para. 15). Having face-to-face conversations and using storytelling are the most effective ways to communicate messages.

Communication occurs by learning to balance inquiry and advocacy, checking assumptions, and being aware of filters separating impact from intent. As Stephen Covey (2004) advised that people “seek first to understand, and then to be understood” (Habit 5, Principles of Empathic Communication section, para. 4). Understanding another person and his or her needs and interests will create a positive impact and be “one of the most potent tools you’ll ever discover for getting through to anyone you meet in business or your personal life” (Goulston, 2010, Chapter 2, Mirror Neurons section, para. 19). The process of engaging and learning from others will generate discussions of self-learning. Short (1998) elaborated that mutual inquiry is the process of learning about ourselves and others, sharing information, telling stories, actively listening, and being true to our feelings.

“Effective executives make sure that both their action plan and their information needs are understood” (Drucker, 2008, p. 122). Knowledge sharing is an important step in fostering transparency and creating a climate of trust. Sharing information is a crucial aspect of creating a trusting organization, and when there is high degree of trust people are more willing to be accurate with their information and give more complete facts about problems.

Judith Glasser (2014) stresses the importance of communication in building trust and how we can shift our conversations from an “I” perspective to a “We” perspective. Glasser’s Trust Model looks at the following key areas: Transparency, relationships, understanding, shared success and focusing on truth telling and testing assumptions. Each of these areas is used by different parts of our brain: The reptilian brain (amygdala), the limbic brain and the prefrontal cortex. By becoming a “We-centric” leader you release the energy and set the tone for greatness that transforms your people and your business. “WE-centric leaders think WE all the time and create organizational spaces where individuals and teams are part of something big, purposeful, meaningful and wonderful” (Glasser, 2016).


The energy a leader brings to a team or organization will affect how they build their circle of trust. A leader needs to be aware of their intention and impact. Often it is an energetic pattern we bring and we are not aware. Energy is motion and it involves emotions. A leader needs to be aware what energy they bring: apathy, anger, responsibility, compassion, peace, joy or love.  The higher the energy the more trust is present. The leader needs to be knowledgeable of the energy they bring to a room and how it affects others. The HeartMath Institute has discovered that your positive or negative emotions can affect another person several feet away. Creating positive energy brings about more creativity and innovation because a person is using their pre-frontal cortex, also known as the “Executive Brain”. Judith Glasser (2014) has shown trust resides in our pre-frontal cortex and distrust resides in our amygdala. When we experience fear and conflict we experience an “amygdala hijack” and create a negative energy space.

Trust is built by understanding a person’s motivation. A motivated person has more energy. People do not always know how to motivate themselves, thus they turn to their external environment for motivation. Transformational leadership uses more intrinsic motivation than extrinsic motivation. In a work environment, extrinsic motivation is used more often with tools such as paychecks, bonuses, and threats of termination. An intrinsically motivated person acts out of interest and for the sense of challenge the activity at hand provides. Intrinsic motivation occurs in an organizational setting when a person identifies with an organization’s strategic goals and shared values.

Followers feel more motivated and have “trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect” (Yukl, 2010) with a leader who uses transformational leadership. Transformational leaders enhanced team performance even in periods of stress, crisis, instability, and turmoil. Bass (as cited in Lim & Ployhart, 2004) stated, “Inspirational motivation and individualized consideration behaviors, are able to reduce the stress experienced by followers by instilling a sense of optimism and collective efficacy” (p. 613). Transformational leaders can increase followers’ sense of belonging; help followers to identify with tasks, goals, and a common vision; and increase follower motivation and decrease social loafing (Lim & Ployhart, 2004).

A leader can transform and move their leadership to the next level by building trust with their direct reports, their team and their organization, by creating self-awareness, communicating effectively and creating positive energy. All of these components help with change, achieving results, and creativity. But the key elements that trust brings to an organization are –  joy and love. Creating Transformational Trust goes beyond words – it is created by your intentional actions.

 What strategies do you use to build your circle of trust?

What transformations could you create to build more trust?

Building trust in leadership one person, team, and organization at a time – Andrea Reibmayr, Transformational Coach

@2016, Andrea Reibmayr


 Covey, S. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people [Electronic version]. Retrieved from

Drucker, P. (2008). Classic Drucker: Essential wisdom of Peter Drucker form the pages of Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Glasser, J. (2014). Conversational intelligence: How leaders build trust and get extraordinary results. Brookline: Bibliomotion.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2004). Primal leadership: Learning to lead with emotional intelligence [Electronic version]. Retrieved from

Goulston, M. (2010). Just listen: Discover the secret to getting through to absolutely anyone [Electronic version]. Retrieved from

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lencioni, P. (2012). The advantage: Why organizations health trumps everything else in business [Electronic version]. Retrieved from 

Lim, B., & Ployhart, R. (2004). Transformational leadership: Relations to the five-factor model and team performance in typical and maximum contexts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(4), 610–621. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.89.4.610

Senge, P. M., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R. B., & Smith B. J. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building learning organizations. New York, NY: Currency and Doubleday.

Sullivan, T., Orchard, M., & Umoquit, M. (2011). Leadership skills for evidence-informed decisions. In T. Sullivan, & J. L. Denis (Eds.), Building better health care leadership for Canada (pp. 70–83). Montreal, QC, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

23 Comments on “Transformational Trust

    • Thank you for your reply. I just finished my book on Trust Leadership and it will be out in in Kindle format on Amazon in July. I agree that trust is the foundational piece and leaders need to be intentional in all they do to build this key skill. My book gives tips and techniques and resources from other authors who have looked into defining trust. Thank you again.

  1. I want you to be free of pain and I want you to discover the incredible sense of freedom and inner peace that comes your way the moment you give forgiveness a chance, and I trust that what I m going to share with you today will help you do just that.

  2. As a Transformational Executive Coach for healthcare professionals, Andrea has found that people do not work for a job but for a purpose – the patient.

    • Thank you follower club for the comment. I do believe that we all driven by a passion for what we do. Unfortunately we sometime forget what it is.

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    • Hi Maggie,

      You might like my book Trust Leadership to get a better handle of how to use trust in leadership. The main parts are to become aware of your strengths, beliefs and values, communicate effectively with others and manage your energy.

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