Trustworthiness: Maintaining Standards of Honesty and Integrity

At LEADon we’re often asked: “If I could simply work on one of the 25 characteristics of Emotional Quotient (EQ), which one should it be?”  This is a great question—and, according to many business experts, there’s a simple answer:  Trustworthiness.

Why is trustworthiness such an essential characteristic on which leaders should focus? Perhaps the opening line from a Fortune article best sums up the critical nature of this EQ characteristic: “In business, as in private life, all successful relationships run on trust” (see Caitlin Keating’s January 27th, 2012 Weekly Read, “Why Trust Matters So Much in Business”).

You’ve probably heard something similar from our team at LEADon too.  We often say, “Relational Equity is the greatest asset you will ever possess.”  Think about that concept for a few minutes.  Personally, aren’t our relationships central to who we are, why we work, and what we’d like to leave behind as part of our legacy?  And professionally, would any of us have the remotest chance of being successful without strong, intact connections between the people with whom we interact?

Like many leaders we work with around the globe, you might also acknowledge that relationships are pivotal to positive experiences and outcomes in our personal and professional lives.  And, fundamental to any successful relationship, is a foundation of trust.

At LEADon, we define trustworthiness as “maintaining standards of honesty and integrity.”  Individuals who are deemed trustworthy would be described not only as ethical but also beyond reproach in their character and conduct.  Make no mistake, being trustworthy doesn’t mean perfection.  Instead, these men and women are the first to admit their error and make amends.  While being their own toughest critics in terms of reliability and authenticity, they are also not afraid to confront misbehavior as they lead.

Trustworthiness—like all 25 EQ characteristics—can be improved upon over time.  But even given time and effort, how do you improve upon this essential skill set?  According to Blanchard, Olmstead, and Lawrence, “the first step is to recognize which behaviors build trust and which ones have the opposite effect.  We call behaviors that encourage, build, and sustain trust, Trust Boosters” (see their 2013 book, Trust Works!  Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships for more thoughts on how to increase trustworthiness).

So, what are some of those “trust boosters?”  In a June 2013 Forbes article entitled “The Most Valuable Business Commodity:  Trust,” David K. Williams offers specifics on the insights he gleaned about trust as CEO of a large software company.  Here’s a few to consider as you strive to improve your own standards of honesty and integrity:

  • Be loyal to others.
  • Never judge—seek first to understand.
  • Laugh with (not at) others.
  • Take issues directly to the source.
  • Smile frequently.

One of our favorite pieces of advice that Williams shares is this: “Don’t start sentences or thoughts with, ‘What’s in it for me?’ but with, ‘How can I serve you?’” That’s a paradigm shift for many in today’s culture, but it certainly can provide the platform for taking trustworthiness to the next level.

If you’re serious about increasing your integrity, honesty, reliability, and authenticity, then speak candidly to a qualified mentor about this crucial EQ skill set.  Ask for his or her feedback about how you can improve.  Read some of the resources listed above, or look for others on the topic of developing and maintaining trust.  Most of all, be intentional each day about developing trusting relationships with people in your personal and professional life.

Finally, if you haven’t taken the Developing Emotional Competency Questionnaire® (DECQ®) at, then now is the ideal time to do so to discover your strengths and weaknesses in all 25 EQ characteristics.  You can also review the Developing Your Emotional Competence to Improve Your EQ® course for additional ideas on how to improve in every area of EQ. And, of course, please feel free to contact the LEADon team at or 858.592.0700 for more personal assistance.