The 9 Habits of Trustworthiness


Last week I attended the annual conference organised by The Marketing Centre. One of the guest speakers in an inspiring day was John Blakey, UK Chair of Vistage. His talk started by exploring how business leaders have lost their positions of trust (think Sepp Blatter of FIFA, Tony Hayward of BP, Martin Winterkorn of VW) and then moved on to discussing how we might regain that trust again.

In his book, the Trusted Advisor, Charles Green stated “Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead, they rely on the power of trust” While in the past, Profit was the main (sometimes sole) purpose of a business, increasingly there are two other factors that come into play:

  • How does the business relate to the People who engage with it?
  • How does the business make a contribution the the Planet?

Against this backdrop Blakey evangelised a model for how business leaders (and advisors) might build trustworthiness amongst the various stakeholders. AbilityIntegrity and Benevolence were cited as the new glue of trustworthiness.


  • Delivery. Do what you say you’re going to do. Trustworthiness is a dance between the person who wishes to be trusted and the person who is doing the trusting. Delivering against your commitments is therefore a key component
  • Coach. Being able to deliver personally is great, but helping others deliver to their best ability can take trustworthiness to a whole other level.
  • Be Consistent. Being a “one hit wonder” doesn’t engender trust. You need to develop a habit of delivering every day, and in every aspect of your work. Don’t create surprises in your behaviours and actions.


  • Be Honest. Ambitious leaders can have a tendency to cut corners or sail close to the wind in order to achieve results. We need to develop the skill to see things as they are, rather than how we would like them to be. If that is sometimes a blind-spot for you, ensure you have someone around you who can help you set you straight
  • Be Open. This is different from honesty in as much it is about opening up and acting with authenticity. We don’t look for our leaders to be superhuman any longer – we’re wanting them to be real, open to new ideas, ready to admit vulnerabilities. This is not a weakness.
  • Be Humble. The combination of intense professional drive and extreme personal humility is the difference between a good and a great leader. Humility is not a habit that was valued in leadership traits of old, but is an essential component of trustworthiness.


  • Evangelise. Having a passion for what you do helps promote trust. Businesses can be a force for good as much as much as for the more negative stories that tend to occupy the headlines. We need to take a proactive role in evangelising the good things that our business do. Being passionate about the things we do inspires people and inspires trust.
  • Be Brave. Trustworthiness involves doing the right thing, even if it is conflict with our individual goals. People who behave with moral braveness should be celebrated and elevated, and not simply labelled as whistleblowers.
  • Be Kind. Kindness and compassion are still lamentably rare in many corporate environments. A small amount of it can have a remarkable impact on an organisation as well as our own personal sense of wellbeing.

How do you stack up against these 9 habits? Which of these habits do you need to work on for 2016?

Note: John Blakey’s book: The Trusted Executive will be published in April 2016 by Kogan Page

3 thoughts on “The 9 Habits of Trustworthiness

  1. Eloise

    An interesting article as we are currently debating on whether trust should be added as a key company value to the others we already have in place.

  2. Pete Jakob Post author

    Hi Eloise – great to hear from you. I think the fundamental value you probably would want to strive for is TRUSTWORTHINESS. Trust is something that others bestow on you as a result of your behaviours.

  3. John Blakey

    Hi Pete – thanks for picking up the messages from my session so accurately and relaying them to your network. This is a great summary. Always happy to share more with members of your network such a Eloise if it helps. Keep taking the red pill! John

    Reply ↓


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