Building trust, Leadership, Listening, Well being resources, International Teachers Magazine

Reason to trust

Trust, trustworthiness and school leadership

Trust and trustworthiness are essential for happy, vibrant, and successful schools. Mark Starbuck looks at how leaders can  build trust within their school.

All you need is . . . .

School leaders need to trust teachers to provide effective and inspiring lessons, teachers need to trust school leaders in order to cope with changing expectations and the demands placed on them, students need to trust teachers to enable them to engage productively with the learning environment at school and parents need to trust the school leaders and teachers to educate and care for their children, and so on.

 Trust by definition

Molina-Morales et al. (2011, p. 120) define trust as “the mutual confidence between parties to an exchange that none of them will engage in opportunistic behaviour that would exploit any others’ vulnerabilities, and thereby violate the values, principles and standards of behaviour they have internalised as part of the exchange.”

According to Levi (2015, p. 664), trustworthiness “refers to certain attributes of a person or institution” and has two dimensions: The first involves the commitment to act in the interests of the trustor due to moral values about promise keeping, caring about the trustor, or incentive compatibility, or some combination of all three.

The second dimension involves competence in the domain over which trust is being given. The trustworthy will not betray the trust as a consequence of either bad faith or ineptitude. (ibid.)

The positive circle of trust

Trust and trustworthy behaviour positively impact school climate, student achievement, teachers’ sense of efficacy, leadership, and a whole host of other factors, as the graphic shows:

Positive circle of trust, Resources, International Teachers Magazine


20 tips for  building and sustaining trust

Here’s my top twenty for building trust in a school:

  1. Building trust, Leadership, Listening, Well being resources, International Teachers MagazineDemonstrate honesty, authenticity, truthfulness, and integrity
  2. Show benevolence, care, friendliness, respect, and goodwill
  3. Be open, accessible, and visible
  4. Facilitate and model effective open communication (e.g., active listening)
  5. Involve staff in decision making
  6. Display competence
  7. Show wisdom
  8. Celebrate experimentation and support calculated risk
  9. Express value for dissenting views
  10. Reduce teachers’ sense of vulnerability
  11. Show reliability
  12. Openly admit mistakes
  13. Keep confidences
  14. Engage them in activities related to the school’s aims, vison, and core values
  15. Make new staff feel welcome
  16. Reduce the number of formal rules and standardised procedures
  17. Deal with conflict and repair distrust (through mediation)
  18. Create and support meaningful opportunities for teachers to work collaboratively
  19. Identify ways to increase and/or improve staff communication
  20. Make relationship-building a priority
Continue to build on trust . .  . .  . 


Dr. Mark Starbuck, Leadership, Listening, Well being resources, International Teachers MagazineDr. Mark Starbuck

Mark is completing an MA in Educational Leadership and Management, and from July 2018 takes up a Principalship with BASIS schools in China.






Levi. M. (2015) Trust, sociology of. International encyclopaedia of the social and behavioural sciences (2nd Ed.) volume 24. Elsevier.

Molina-Morales, F., Martinez-Fernandez, M. and Torlo, V. (2011). The dark side of trust: the benefits and optimal levels of trust for innovation performance. Long Range Planning 44(2): pp. 118-133.










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