Building Self-Trust

High self-trust is a essential to leadership. At a bare minimum we need it because leadership often demands we handle tense or sensitive situations and potentially must make unpopular decisions. Sometimes we must influence not only ourselves but a team or several teams or a whole organization.

I use this word, self-trust, instead of self-confidence because confidence frankly has a lot of baggage as a term now, too often connoting too much confidence and the dangers of arrogance. Also, as it turns out the word, confidence, means “with full trust,” so that trust seems to be the more original idea.

In the enclosed video, diagram and ten-page paper, I approach building self-trust from the perspective that it is our natural state, but also one that is vulnerable to being eroded or covered up by emotional states. In part the result of these stressed times, four emotions — anxiety, guilt, anger and depression — mixed as a personally unique “cocktail” — can prominently interfere. As an over-conditioned reaction to stress, the cocktail is what depletes us of our sense of self-trust. For each of these four emotional states, I share a goal and a practice to help meet potentially strong feelings rather than trying to suppress them.

The emotions, goals and practices are presented as examples of what meeting a strong emotion means, not a be-all and end-all solution. I encourage leaders to use the model as a catalyst to doing their own work to identify for themselves the emotional states that most interfere and to develop personalized goals and practices.

Everybody, it turns out, has their own favorite cocktail. You can find out a little more about identifying your own practices via this post here on the Unfolding Leadership blog.

This video summary is about twenty minutes long. I suggest that you download the diagram I use in the video — it’s likely to make it easier to follow along. You can find that diagram here.

You can also download my longer paper, which includes the diagram, as an ongoing resource. The paper goes into more depth than the video. You can download it here.


I’ve been working on this material for some time and have shared it with a variety of clients. It’s been exciting to see the impact on our work together!

Please feel free to share any thoughts or feedback you might have about these ideas and materials.

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