Traits of a Trustworthy Leader

By | February 26, 2019

[February 26, 2019] Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson as a Buck Sergeant in the U.S. Army. I was calling indirect fire onto a simulated target about 400 meters from our mortar gun crews when three artillery forward-observers arrived. They told me not to worry but to note their big guns would be hitting the same target. That day they showed me how to be a trustworthy leader.

Our mortars were 81mm and had a blast radius (probably of getting killed in that area was high) of about 35 meters. That meant that an explosion from our mortars on a target 400 meters out was safe. The three lieutenants standing next to me said their 155mm ammunition had a blast radius of about 100 meters, so we were still safe. Note that we were standing on the side of a large cliff with the target down in the valley

The first 155mm round came in low enough that I heard it pass over our heads and explode close to the target center. The explosion was enough to us that it nearly knocked me off my feet. The first thing I did was give the lieutenants a firm look that could have burned through armor. “Not to worry, sergeant, that was not even close.” After a day of this, I learned that it might not be easy being a trustworthy leader but it pays off. At least we weren’t killed that day.

Some of the traits of a trustworthy leader are:

  1. Competence: leadership means having a solid foundation of skill, ability, and knowledge.
  2. Confidence: trustworthy leaders are secure in their beliefs and abilities.
  3. Approachable: authenticity is at the foundation of trustworthiness, never phoniness.
  4. Integrity: leader skills are built on the proper foundation of honesty and openness.1

Leaders are always on point. They are always out front, leading others who may or may not trust them fully. It is the job of that leader to develop the trust necessary that others will follow them; despite what may appear to be a foolish venture. They taught me that it’s not easy being a leader (I was new to it myself).

Trustworthiness is one of the key traits we find in leaders. There is no real substitution. We can quickly recognize false leaders for what they are because we see them every day.


  1. U.S. football coach Tony Dungy makes similar points in his article at the All-Pro Dad Experience website:


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Traits of a Trustworthy Leader

  1. Delf A. "Jelly" Bryce

    Way back at the beginning of General Satterfield’s leadership blog, he wrote about the value of Trust and Confidence. In fact, it was the number 2 characteristic he listed. See article here –
    We would all be better off paying very close attention to the idea that trust and confidence matter. And yet, while our youth are destroying trust in others, our society is on a slide that I fear it might not recover without extreme violence.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Well said, Jelly. This has been a consistent theme here and at other leadership blogs. Keep up the great contributions.

  2. Drew Dill

    Trust is inherent in the human species (I believe) or else I would not be writing this and there would be no civilization. They day humans stop trusting one another (BTW it won’t happen) is the day society will end. Just my thoughts on the overall importance of trust.

  3. Army Captain

    I just read that there are 18 new military veterans in the US Congress. That is good news. I hope they receive a positive reception. We now have more leaders that have had some real leadership experience.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    In today’s DAILY FAVORITES, Gen. Satterfield has a couple of article on the decline of Socialist Venezuela. This is an example of a failed leader, not because he lacks leadership characteristics (well, maybe a few) but because he has adopted an ideology that destroys people. Does Maduro see this? Perhaps not. If that is the case, it shows his lack of caring for the people. But a good socialist never lets the destruction of his people get in the way of saving them from “evil” capitalism.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Pass the popcorn. Another socialist bites the dust.
      “Stupid is as stupid does.”

      1. Maureen S. Sullivan

        Forrest, you’re kiling me with these. I nearly spit my morning coffee thru my nose. I should know by now that you are on top of this!

  5. Greg Heyman

    I liked your story. Seems like you always wrap a leader message in a good story. Nice methodology!

    1. Lynn Pitts

      He does that well. Makes for more interesting reading. Today, our younger generation needs something also to hold their attention for more than 6 seconds.

  6. Max Foster

    I’m a little slower than normal posting this morning. My power went out last night and I had to deal with the effects. Good article today on one of my most visited topics. Leaders must be trustworthy. Volumes are written on the importance of it so I will not go into that here. But I must emphasize that without trust, no human relationship could exist other than in the most base animal instinct.

  7. Jonathan B.

    Tony Dungy, in my opinion, was one of the greatest coaches of all time. Not the greatest because he had the most wins but he had the best leadership.

    1. AutisticTechie

      Yes, I was thinking the same but you beat me to the punch! Hahahahaha

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