When Leadership Style Meets Trust

By Andre Pinantoan

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Which leadership style trusts people they meet almost immediately while for other leadership styles, it takes longer? How come some give their trust unconditionally while others give it more cautiously? It has to do with style.

Leadership Style

Imagine being able to solve the mystery of human behavior – those actions that drive how others perceive and react to us. Imagine knowing what gets in the way of developing positive and productive relationships, aka “RelationSlips”. Imagine doing this by using things that are very familiar to us.

Stop reading for just a moment and grab a writing instrument. Look at the five shapes (Box, Circle, Squiggle, Triangle, or Rectangle) below and rank them from one (1) to five (5), 1 being the most appealing to you and 5 being the least.

Believe it or not, you have just identified your behavioral style; that is, how you think, feel, act, relate, and come across to others! How you ask? The shapes you chose and the order in which you chose them are based on the premise that we are attracted to objects in our environment based on our brain function.

For example, if your number one choice is in the box, triangle, or rectangle, you are left-brained, tend to be logical and sequential in your thinking, and are task-oriented. You make decisions based on information and data. So, what does each shape mean in terms of behavior?

Boxes Figure

Boxes are the organized, analytic, persevering, hard-working, play by the rules, ‘all the ducks in a row’ kind who usually prefers working alone and generally dislikes surprises.

Triangles To the Rescue

The Triangle is decisive, ambitious, goal-oriented, competitive, wants life to revolve around him/her, and thrives when put in (but usually takes!) charge.

Rectangles Revolve

Rectangles are in transition and are experiencing growth.

Circles Smile

The Circle is the friendly one, loves everyone, listens and communicates well, tends to avoid conflict, and is always there to help.

Squiggles Wiggle

Squiggles tend to be creative, animated, and expressive and are known to change their mind at the drop of a hat. If you chose the circle or squiggle as number one, you are right-brained, tend to be non-systematic in your thinking, prefer relationships over tasks and make decisions based on gut feelings.

Keep in mind that we are a sum total of all of the above styles. Most of the time, we use the one(s) that are most comfortable and the most natural to us. So, what do I do with this information, you ask? Once you are aware of your style and the styles of others, you can then “flex”, that is, use your predominant style or one of your non-dominate styles, to:

  • Complement and supplement the styles of others
  • Be a more effective leader
  • Help our teams be more successful
  • Improve selling and customer service skills, and
  • Prevent “RelationSlips”

What’s Trust Got to Do With It?

Ask ten people what the word trust means, and you’ll get twenty different responses. However you define it, experts agree that trust is the critical ingredient to ineffective relationships. Someone once said that Trust is like money – it takes hours to earn it but seconds to lose.

Take a moment to think about trust and answer the question: What does trust mean to you? You probably thought of words like dependable, truthful, reliable, or even caring. Those are trustworthy behaviors, also known as “Trust Builders”.

On the flip side, what words that come to mind that you feel make a person untrustworthy? What is it that causes you not to trust them? How would you describe untrustworthiness?

Trust Busters

You may have included words/phrases such as not keeping promises, lying or can’t keep a secret. These untrustworthy behaviors are “Trust Busters”. To help us identify what makes someone trustworthy, let’s go back to the basics, the ABCDs so to speak. People will trust you if they think you are one or more of the following:


Do your job, be competent, and possess the skills to get things done, and consistently achieve goals.


Acting with integrity, being honest, and treating others fairly


Showing that you care, build rapport with others, seek and utilize feedback, and give credit where credit is due.


You do what you say you will do, have an effective system to get things done and hold yourself and others accountable.

These four elements (Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable) lay the foundation for trust. Trust is essential to all relationships, be they between boss and employee, peers, team members, or one person to another. If one of these is lacking, even in the slightest, trust can be broken.

Go back to the few words that you wrote to associate with Trustworthy or Untrustworthy behaviors. Now take a few moments to write next to behavior which of the ABCDs you associate with that behavior.

For example,

  • If you wrote “Caring”, then you might write “Connected”.
  • If you wrote “Unreliable”, then you might write “Dependable”.

When Leadership Style Meets Trust

And now, you ask, what is the connection between Style and Trust? Let’s consider which of the four elements would be the most important to each of the styles. Knowing this will be helpful in building a trusting relationship with each style you meet.

Triangles are status conscious and like to surround themselves with powerful people. They demand competence and set high standards.  To be trusted by a Triangle means you need to be confident and show them that you are the best at what you do. Triangles are most likely to place the most value on ABLE.

Squiggles Are Believable

Squiggles, when they trust, they place value on BELIEVABLE. They deal with concepts, so values and integrity are important to them.

Circles Are Connected

Circles find the best in everyone and often trust others immediately. To them, you are “innocent until proven guilty”. Circles would most likely place value on CONNECTED; they have to feel that you care about them if you want to keep the trust that they so readily give.

Boxes Are Dependable

Boxes take pride in doing things by following a system. Because they prefer to work alone and feel they can do things themselves, Boxes usually take the longest to trust others; but once they do, they trust for life! They will trust you if you show them that you also have a system and will help them deliver. To them, you must be DEPENDABLE.

Next time you meet someone whom you trust immediately, give some thought to the reasons why. It’s a case of “when style meets trust” – your way.  It is your behavioral style and the ABCDs at work!

How Does Leadership Style Meet Trust?

If you have ideas about leadership style that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Andre Pinantoan
Andre Pinantoan
Andrianes Pinantoan is the head of inbound marketing at Open Colleges. He is a psychology-nut who can be found reading when not writing or spending time with his family. Connect with @andreispsyched and +Andrianes.
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