Keys to Trust: Capability

a series on building trust

Building Trust Requires Capability

Over the last few weeks I have written on the topic of building trust. People trust others who have capabilities to lead them in their respective areas. Proving you have the capability means a strong presence of skills, knowledge, and experience.

Keys to Trust - Capability | Josh Ball Leadership Development

Capable is defined as having attributes required for performance or accomplishment. When trying to build trust, your followers will look to your capabilities as a judgement of your leadership abilities. Make sure you are capable of performing your work and leading others before expecting trust to appear.


People follow others for different reasons. Most people follow after a trusting relationship has forged. The path to trust generally requires experience.

Leaders give us something to strive for. They push us, empower us, develop us, and teach us. It is difficult to trust someone who doesn’t have experience along the way. Think about this, it takes upwards of 10 years in the NFL officiating farming system before you ref your first game. One long time official administrator said that if you wrote a 10 chapter book on officiating, the first 9 would be on preparing and the last one would be on the game.

Leaders not only have to build trust, they have to show they are capable through experience. We often lay trust in our clergy, but if we went to them for guidance on marriage, a young single pastor may not be effective for mentoring. Trust requires experience.


Several of you may have heard that knowledge is power before. Far to many insecure people hold on to knowledge to leverage power. The thought that if you know everything you are needed. Let me tell you first hand, this does not work in an effective workforce and it is impossible in a trusting relationship as a leader.

When you become a leader, you give up the right to be self serving. Leadership is about serving others, that also means giving up information to empower your team. Here’s a secret, if you hold onto information, people will talk and sometimes the false information can cause more harm than just sharing the info in the first place.

I’ve made the same mistakes. When I took my first “leadership” position, I thought I had to know everything, perform perfectly, and hold tight to the knowledge bestowed upon me. What I found out was that I knew little, was far from perfect, and only looked like a fool thinking I was entitled to the information and no one else was.


The reason we size people up is often due to life experiences. We have trained ourselves to look for potential problems in a manner of self-preservation. In some situations, it can be life or death.

Seeing my “leader” lacking the skills to do the job left me with little chance of trusting him again. If leadership is about influence and influence was about trust, I had no faith in his skills to influence me. The chances of me trusting him again were gone. Credibility as a leader requires a solid platform of trust.

The definition of skill is the ability to do something well. Leaders don’t have to be experts in every field. We don’t expect that a CEO be an engineer and a CPA, but we expect them to have knowledge of R&D and finance. Having general skills and knowledge tend to lead to trust with your team.

E + K + S = Capability

The formula to determining your capability is Experience + Knowledge + Skills = Capability.

Experience is practical contact with and observation of facts or events.

Knowledge is facts or information acquired by a person through experience or education.

A Skill is the ability to do something well; expertise.

Take the time to build experience in your field so that you have past events to go on. Use knowledge learned both in the field and in the classroom to figure out how to find solutions to problems. Practice over and over until you can do it really well. When you can tie those three together, you have shown you are capable of the job. Only then can you forge true trust and make an impact.


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