Sooner or later every leader realises that 99% of the people he depends on for success don’t report to him. Authentic leadership relies on persuasion and persuasion relies on trust.

Trust is the most important asset that any organisation, brand, product, leader, or individual can have. Most importantly, trust is not a scarce resource. We can all have more than we need. However, trust is fragile: Once squandered it is often impossible to regain.

Here are 5 ways to guarantee that you, your product, your brand, and your company will always be trusted:

1. Keep promises

The first secret to trust is keeping promises. Trust depends on promise and fulfilment – or what lawyers call contracts.

Few realise that corporate profit and loss statements consist of promises not money. There is no cash or “real money” on the P&L; instead the meat is accounts receivable and accounts payable which are merely promises to pay for goods and services already rendered or received.

2. Under promise, over deliver

Another secret to establishing trust is to under commit and over deliver.

Over promising is the flip side to under promising – and just as damaging. Negotiating up front is far more effective in creating and maintaining trust than the inevitable excuses that arise when a promise is not fulfilled.

We over commit because we want others to like us, but the best way to ruin a relationship is by not following through on our promises.

3. Proactive communication

The fourth secret for building trust is proactive communication.

As fallible human beings we will never keep all our promises, but no matter how compelling our excuses may be for failing to deliver on time and on budget there is no excuse for not giving others a heads up.

Keeping everyone in the loop isn’t just common courtesy – it’s absolutely essential. If the news is good people can relax, and if the news is bad there is plenty of time to go to plan B.

4. Never hide mistakes

Without doubt, some of our mistakes will be discovered – and when they are, any rational observer will assume that where there is one – there are others yet to be discovered.

Autonomy or being our own boss is what turns work into fun, and hiding mistakes is the quickest way to trade hands-off autonomy for a hands-on boss or regulatory agency anxiously monitoring our every move.

5. Rethink “leadership”

A big obstacle to authenticity is a strong need to maintain a certain image. If so, you probably have defined your image of “executive” or “leader” more narrowly than you need to.

Try to let go of the tight limits or expectations of how you need to appear — revealing your personality and humanness is a better sign of effective leadership.

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