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Trust is a deep human emotion that brands spend countless millions of dollars on every year trying to understand how to build it, how to nurture it and in some cases how to repair it.

We thought it was only fair to leverage these learnings (and investment).

Trust models developed for brands generally talk about four similar dimensions:

Motives ‘whose interests do they serve’

Competence ‘do things work as promised’

Means ‘Is it delivered fairly’

Impact ‘can we see it with my own eyes’

When you consider these dimensions in the context of interpersonal relationships, straight away they feel as relevant as they do in a business context.

Interestingly, these dimensions have an uncanny relationship with Goleman’s Six Styles of Leadership. If you’re not aware of these styles, here’s a quick snapshot:

Commanding: You kick-start and demand action

Visionary: You mobilise by providing clarity of direction

Pacesetting: You lead by example

Coaching: You help develop people’s skills

Democratic: You reach consensus through participation

Affiliative: you focus on the needs of people, first

Let’s look at the relationship between these two models:


If your team doesn’t see and feel that your motives are aligned to their well-being and the well-being of the organisation, then straight away you have wobbly foundations for trust. Conveying motives as a leader involves softer skills like empathy and would commonly be achieved through what Goleman deems as democratic and affiliative leadership styles.


Leaders that work their way up through a business and/or industry generally do well on this dimension, in contrast to leaders who switch industries at a leadership level. They understand the work and requirements of their team intimately because they once did the same or similar role. When required, they can roll their sleeves, which as a leadership style is considered, pacesetting. Or, use their specialist knowledge to help develop the specialised styles required in the team i.e. employ a coaching leadership style. Interesting, our own recent research showed a similar alignment between pacesetting and coaching styles and that they are often used in tandem. Read more about that here.

Means (fairness):

Naturally, democratic and affiliative leadership styles apply here. While this dimension is a measure of how intent is enacted, its crucial that this is done in an equitable way. If a leader is deemed to have equitable motives, however these are continually acted upon in a way that suggest bias, then their motives will be questioned.


This is the outcomes of the expectation set through motives and means i.e. did the leader deliver as promised? This often requires the more directive leadership styles of visionary and commanding i.e. providing clarity of direction and setting an expectation of the actions required to achieve said ambitions. Interestingly, our research suggests that these two leadership styles are the two that leaders don’t feel as comfortable, or competent employing, which perhaps gives some insight into the shortening of average tenures in leadership positions.


The alignment between trust and effective leadership models is no coincidence. In contrast to more operational or specialist roles, leadership is more people focused, so it should come as no surprise of how crucial trust is.

What’s important to understand is that trust is more than building relationships. What this analysis highlights is that competence and impact, are as important to help distinguish someone as a trusted leader, not just a friendly boss.

While there is no paint-by-numbers solution to leadership, using models such as Goleman’s Six Styles of Leadership and brand trust models to assess your own leadership can at the very least give you an insight into areas you may need to give more focus.

If you have questions about your own leadership, or of leaders within your organsation, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to discuss your leadership development plans.

Thanks for reading.

Oliver Sheer

Managing Director, Be Challenged.

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