Vail Valley Voices: Who do you trust? |

Vail Valley Voices: Who do you trust?

John Horan-Kates
Vail, CO, Colorado

Trust is an absolutely critical leadership principle touching every aspect of our lives: our work, our government leadership, schools, churches, families and institutions of every size and stripe.

Trust is the confidence we have in the character of a person or organization. It’s the belief that those on whom we depend will meet our expectations.

And perhaps more than anything, it’s found in strong relationships.

Looking at this very personal question ” whom do you trust, and adding, why do you trust them ” might help you get your arms around this important concept.

For me, my family comes to mind immediately. Maybe that seems obvious, but when I really think about it, what I see is that these are the individuals whom I really know. More than others, these are the people with whom I’ve spent time and have so much experience with. I’ve watched them over many years, and they’ve watched me expose my deepest thoughts and feelings. Like every Thanksgiving, when we all express those things we’re most thankful for and almost always tear up with one another.

And then there’s the question, Who trusts you? For me, again, family comes to mind first. They know me, they know what I stand for because they’ve heard my story, probably too many times, and they’ve seen me in action. So for me, trust occurs in close relationships.

Trust is built by honoring your commitments, doing what you say you will and producing results. Being humble and respectful and making friends helps, too !

Stephen M.R. Covey, in his book “The Speed of Trust,” recommends “smart trust,” that is, extending trust thoughtfully rather than naively. He advocates trusting others after careful thought and then taking reasonable risks.

We know that trust is more often established through deeds rather than words, as Emerson underscored when he said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can hardly hear what you say.”

As a critical leadership principle, trust can be thought of as both a noun and a verb. It’s a noun when it describes the condition we want to create. Trust is that state we all want to be in. Whether it’s within an organization, a community or a family, it doesn’t get much more powerful than to be in a relationship of trust. And at the societal level, “In God We Trust” is still on most of our money!

It’s a verb when it describes our reliability or trustworthiness. For example, when we deliver on our promises, we are building trust. When we trust others, there’s a much higher likelihood that they will trust us.

Trust can empower others because when they observe our good behavior, they naturally want to emulate it.

It’s been said that “a failure in trust may be forgiven more easily if it is interpreted as a failure of competence rather than a lack of honesty.” More than almost anything, dishonesty destroys trust and produces suspicion and skepticism.

When we talk about trust within the Vail Leadership Institute’s “inside-first” framework, we link it to being born of the mind, embraced by the heart and delivered by our hands.

Whom do you trust? And who trusts you?

This column has been written in connection with Exploring Potential, a character-development program offered in Eagle County high schools. John Horan-Kates is the president of the Vail Leadership Institute in Edwards. He can be reached at 970-926-7800 or jhk@

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