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As a small business leader, you have a lot of power. You have the ability to inspire and motivate your team, and you have the ability to make decisions that can impact your company’s bottom line. It is important to remember that with great power comes great responsibility. As a leader, it is essential to maintain trust and credibility with your team, customers, and stakeholders.

Unfortunately, many small business leaders kill trust and credibility with their own actions. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common ways small business leaders destroy trust and credibility.

I won’t go into the difference between trust and credibility here. I’ve written more about that over here. The bottom line is loss of one leads to the loss of the other.

Here are 10 ways I see leaders destroy trust and lose credibility:

Inconsistency between words and deeds

Leaders inspire people with words and often let them down with their actions. Anytime there is an inconsistency in our words and our actions, it’s a recipe for disappointment. To be a successful leader, it’s important to understand the value of trust and credibility. People will only follow a leader that they trust and believe in. This means not just talking about leadership, but also embodying it through consistent behavior. As a leader, ask yourself: are my actions aligning with my words? Am I demonstrating trust?

Leaders inspire people with words and let them down with their actions.

Tolerating bad behavior

Finding “A” players for your team is not easy, and not all of these players are a good fit for your culture. It’s really common in small businesses and organizations for the leadership to tolerate bad behavior from a top performer because that top performer may have a huge impact on the bottom line. The leadership may feel like they are dependent on this top performer and may overlook his or her bad behavior in favor of bottom-line results.

This never works out long-term, and the damage is typically deeper and longer lasting than anticipated. It’s called “bad” behavior for a reason… it’s bad. It drags down the team’s morale, and a team with bad morale will not win any championships.

Tolerating bad performance

Another way to kill trust and credibility with your people is to tolerate bad performance. Top performers like to play alongside other top performers. I’ve always heard that a racehorse always runs faster when it has another racing by its side. It’s the same with people. Top performers see low performers as dragging down the entire team.

It’s one thing if the low-performing individuals are paid on commission, but it’s especially true if they’re getting paid the same or similar rate as the top performers. Seeing others get paid the same for doing less work retrieving lesser results is demoralizing. Again, this kills your trust and credibility with your people.

As a leader, it’s important to address under-performance and provide support and guidance for improvement. But if all efforts fail, it may be necessary to let go of that individual to maintain trust and credibility with the rest of the team. Leadership means making hard decisions for the betterment of the team as a whole.

Leadership means making hard decisions

Not accepting accountability

Leaders who do not accept accountability for their actions won’t be leaders for very long. Employees want trustworthy leadership that will own up to their mistakes and is accountable for their actions, instead of passing the blame onto someone else. Some of the best leaders I know are also the best at accepting responsibility for their own mistakes. Accepting responsibility when you make a mistake builds trust rather than destroying it. 

Lack of transparency

Sometimes leaders communicate with their people on a “need to know” basis like they are in the military or dealing with top secret information. Too often leaders will act like unfavorable conditions don’t exist and won’t communicate bad news. Again, people can see through this and will be more trusting of more transparent leaders.

Leadership isn’t about just being in charge or having a title; it’s about earning trust and credibility from those you lead. Transparency is one way to build that trust and credibility, as it shows your team that you have their best interests at heart and are not afraid to talk about the good and the bad. When people trust and believe

Failure to follow through on commitments

This one is a slight twist on the case when words don’t match deeds. A lot of times people will trust a leader with a heart of gold, and even make excuses for him when he doesn’t follow through on commitments. Ultimately though, this will take its toll on the relationship, eroding credibility first, then eating trust for dessert.

A leader should always be conscious of the weight their words carry, and do everything in their power to fulfill their promises. This is not only important for building trust with team members, but also for establishing oneself as a credible leader in the larger community. 

It’s also worth noting that leadership isn’t just about big promises and speeches; it’s also about the small day-to-day commitments and following through on those as well. Being reliable in the little things lays a foundation for being trusted with larger responsibilities. 

In short, leadership is not just about having big ideas, but also about having the integrity to follow through and make them a reality.

Ethical violations

Some leaders lack good ethics altogether, and then there are good leaders who have a slip in ethics. Maybe they give in to financial pressure or succumb to some temptation. I’ve seen a lot of leaders do this over the years, and people are really hurt when it happens. It takes time to gain back trust over time and build credibility with your employees.

It’s important to always stay true to your values and maintain a strong ethical compass as a leader. Don’t let anyone or anything pressure you into making decisions that go against your morals. Your integrity is what sets you apart as a leader, so make sure it remains intact.

In sum, leadership and ethics go hand in hand.

Inequitable treatment of employees

As a leader, it is important to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and given equal opportunities for growth and development. From nepotism to favoritism, unequal treatment will ruin trust and credibility. It is essential to create a culture where all individuals feel valued and respected, regardless of their position or background. By fostering a sense of equality and inclusivity, leadership can ultimately drive the success of the team and organization.

Not allowing employees to feel their voice is heard

Another thing that destroys trust and credibility in leaders is not allowing employees to voice their ideas and opinions. Too many times employees are just expected to be quiet and do their jobs like good little robots. This not only stifles creativity and innovation, but it also makes employees feel unvalued and disrespected.

As a leader, it is important to listen to your team and allow them to share their thoughts and suggestions. This not only shows that you value their input, but it also fosters a sense of leadership within the team as they feel they have a hand in decision-making and problem-solving.

Furthermore, having various perspectives can lead to more successful outcomes for the company as a whole. So next time you’re making decisions, make sure to listen to your team and create an environment where their voices are heard. This will not only improve trust and credibility in leadership,

Only giving attention to the squeaky wheel

It’s sad that some of the most productive, dependable, and loyal employees get looked over and can be made to feel invisible. As a leader, it’s important to ensure that those who have proven their value to the team and organization are recognized and given opportunities for growth. This builds trust and credibility within the team as they know their dedication will be rewarded. It also sets a standard for other employees, showing them the importance of consistently performing at a high level.


As a leader, it is essential to maintain trust and credibility with your team to achieve success. From being transparent and following through on commitments, to treating employees equitably, leadership can drive success by considering how their actions impact trust and credibility within the team. By allowing employees to feel their voice is heard, leadership can create an environment where employees are more likely to be productive and innovative. Furthermore, recognizing the value of all employees will help build trust and strengthen relationships within the team. Maintaining trust and credibility is key for any leader looking to achieve success.

Overall, leadership is about creating trust and credibility through communication, accountability, ethics, fairness, and valuing employee input.