Trust and Competence: Leaders Must Have Both to Succeed


Some people you trust with your life. Some people you know will get the job done. These are two essential qualities that every leader looks for in building their organization. But unless you find both trust and competence in those whom you lead, you don’t have a dynamic team who can grow your business, church, or not-for-profit. As a matter of fact, without trust and competence, the only thing you have is a mess in your hands.

The trustworthy and yet incompetent is often the first to be hired and the last to be let go. After all, who does not love someone you can trust, someone you know will have your back and whom you do not have to worry about what they are “up to?” However, his inability to perform and deliver will catch up with him and the entire team. Sure, he’s a likeable person, but in business and even in ministry, people expect results. Good will only goes so far and then your entire organization loses credibility.

The competent and yet not trustworthy is an equal liability. Usually these individuals are highly motivated to succeed. But his personal success and advancement are what matter the most. He is willing to throw his team mates, their boss, and the entire company under the proverbial “bus” in order to save face or advance his career. His primary concern is to take care of number one. Leaders often struggle with firing these start performers because they feel like the individual’s contribution to the organization is worth their selfish behavior. In reality it’s quite the opposite. He is not delivering your product, but his performance.

Whether we like someone who is loyal but cannot work on the level that benefits the organization or we put up with the untrustworthy because he delivers, we are contributing to a dysfunctional work environment that demoralizes those who are both competent and trustworthy.

What’s your experience with the trust and competence dynamic? 


  • Mark

    I’ve worked with a woman who was very smart and extremely competent when it came to her skills, but no one in my company trusted her. We need she was in for herself and not the team.

  • Sally Smith

    This is right on. I agree: you can’t have one without the other.

  • Eric Nathan Guel

    Seems there should be a path to gain competence while still being trustworthy.

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