Have you ever had a boss who betrayed your trust? It is a sucker-punch to the gut that stirs up conflicting emotions: confusion, embarrassment, anger. Everything you believed about that person is thrown into question. It's especially painful when it comes from a leader that you admire and respect. 

There may be a lot of gray areas in life, but trust is not one of them. It's black or white: A relationship either has trust, or it does not.

After you get burned once, you learn to be wary about trusting so easily the next time. Would you share a new idea with a co-worker who took all the credit for your last one?

Genuine leaders know that establishing trust -- and keeping it -- is the key to a strong organization. They realize that trust takes time to build, and it can be destroyed in an instant. They take this trust seriously, and work to protect it.

If you are in a position of leadership, you certainly want to be trusted. For that to happen, though, you must continually invest in the creation of that trust by being:

1. Responsive

Genuine leaders know that inefficiencies and delays can bog down the progress of any organization. They know that their team depends on them to be decisive and goal-oriented, and understand that they must respond with immediacy if they want the company to move forward. 

These leaders do not mind interruptions; they are intentional about tackling requests while they are still fresh. They are approachable, and provide a consistency of action and follow-through that others can rely on. 

By modeling the kind of responsiveness that they want to see from their team, they lay the groundwork for trust to grow throughout the organization. 

2. Transparent

Organizations that are closed-off and secretive promote an atmosphere of mistrust and an awkward feeling of limbo. Genuine leaders, on the other hand, understand the importance of openness, and they do not keep the higher purpose or the "why" a big secret from everyone.

They know that every team member needs to understand how their work matters and fits into the larger plan. They are more than willing to share their vision with the entire team so they have the tools and confidence to excel in their jobs. 

3. Humble

One sure way a leader can lose their team's trust is to take credit for something they did not earn. But genuine leaders do not need that ego boost; they have learned from experience that any success they have is because of a shared team effort. They are happy to throw credit to others and give them an opportunity to shine.

They also will accept responsibility when they have made a mistake, and take the fall even when it may not be their fault. Their number-one concern is for their team, and they are strong enough to take whatever flak comes their way. They are willing to put others first, even if their image is on the line.

For any meaningful relationship to have real staying power, there must first be a foundation of trust. When you devote your energy toward building that trust, your team will learn they can depend on to you to lead with integrity and honesty. And your company will be that much stronger for it. 

Published on: Feb 9, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.