Take Care of People and Trust Will Take Care of Itself

HBR’s article Leadership That Gets Results introduced six leadership styles:

Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance. Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision. Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony. Democratic leaders build consensus through participation. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction. And coaching leaders develop people for the future.

It further claims that:

Leaders who have mastered four or more—especially the authoritative, democratic, affiliative, and coaching styles—have the best climate and business performance.

It’s not hard to that three of the four styles there — democratic, affiliative and coaching styles — are people-centric.

Trust is that saturated word in most people-centric narratives.

Trust among team members, trust in leadership, trust with clients, trust from customers.

Trust is a good thing, maybe the best of things.

But obsessing with trust is missing the point, because if we take care of people, then trust will take care of itself.


There are three reasons for that:

  • Trust is merely a reliable social means to the people-centric, social end.
  • Trust is just one of many critical elements for being people-centric.
  • Trust-less coordination, cooperation and collaboration is feasible with new decentralizing technologies such as blockchain.

Trust as Means to a Social End

Trust is hard to build and easy to collapse.

Enough has been said about the importance of trust in team building, leadership and organizations.

But don’t take it the wrong way – we cherish trust not because trust itself has any utilitarian value (it does have cultural value), but because trust enables many other essential social values.

Trust is an enabler, but it’s not the only one.

As a leader, if you don’t take care of people, then you don’t get to talk about trust. Not vice versa.

Trust as a People-Centric Quality

What does people-centric mean? What kind of observable evidence would you need to see to make you truly believe that your organization and leaders are being people-centric?

We may find evidence in the employees’ confidence in the leaders and in the organization. We may also find it in the lores they tell. After all, organization is the mobilization of bias.

Yet trust is more.

Trust may be found and lost by evidence, but it’s often sustained by faith.

We can only avoid exploitation of trust when it goes both ways.

Being people-centric needs so much more than trust.

Trust as a Redundancy in Trust-less Organization

Security and blockchain technologies and the like have long been showing us that trust-less coordination, cooperation and collaboration is not only possible, but also feasible.

With new organizational paradigms like DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), we see emerging possibilities of new organizational landscapes where trust is not necessarily the essential ingredient of process, structure and function formations in organizations.

Admittedly, trust is still and perhaps will always be critical to culture and purpose formations in organizations.

The only problem that can’t be solved by technology is people.

Even in a trust-less organization, people still need to be taken care of.

Corrupt organization is all about not taking care of people. Incorruptible organization is all about taking care of them.


Just as leaders can build trust for good, they can also succinctly use it as part of the organizational lores that aim to keep the status-quo and direct people’s attention away from the structural oversight – one that makes sure leaders are taking good care of people.

As important as trust is in organizations, it’s only one of many elements that makes or breaks them. Trust may or may not be the skeleton key to a purpose-fulfilling organization.

An organizing world without trust is not unthinkable, even though a culture without it is.


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