Are you leading with trust? In spite of the fact that high-trust organizations outperform others, few leaders focus on building trust with stakeholders. The leaders I work with are, for the most part, trustworthy. Yet almost everyone could do more to reinforce an environment of high trust.

There is no doubt in my mind most leaders are good people genuinely interested in bringing out the best in themselves and those who work for them. Yet they don’t do enough to lead with trust.

“Trust is a critical ingredient for leadership, since few people follow someone they do not trust…You cannot even get out of the starting gate as a leader if others do not believe your words.” ~ Cornell University Professor Tony Simons, The Integrity Dividend: Leading by the Power of Your Word (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

For example, take a look at the surveys:

A Watson Wyatt Worldwide study of 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries found that companies with high trust levels outperform their low-trust counterparts by 186 percent.

In a 2011 Maritz survey, only seven percent of more than 90,000 employees worldwide said they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers distrust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.

Trust Is a Leadership Skill

Despite the importance of trust, few leaders give it the focus it deserves. Misunderstood as a nebulous “feeling,” trust is earned through consistent, positive behaviors practiced over time, making it an indispensable leadership skill.

Trust always affects two outcomes—speed and cost,” confirms leadership guru Stephen M. Covey in The Speed of Trust (Free Press, 2008). “When trust goes down, speed will also go down and costs will go up. When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down. It’s that simple, that real, that predictable.”

Your success as a leader depends on the degree to which stakeholders trust you. Whether you’re a business developer, salesperson, client relationship manager, C-level executive, consultant or manager, you need to master the principles of trust and put them into daily practice.

A distrustful environment creates expensive—and sometimes irreparable—problems. You must train your thinking and change your habits to earn the trust necessary to be influential, successful and recognized as someone who makes a difference.

In my next series of articles, I’ll explore how you can build more trust. What do you think? How trusting are people where you work? I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here or on LinkedIn.