Trust relies on three things:

  1. Competence—can you do something well?
  2. Benevolence—are you doing good?
  3. Integrity—will you do the right thing, even when things are bad for you?

I heard this breakdown on a podcast episode earlier this week, and loved the idea so much that I hastily dictated a note to Siri about it (I was in my car at the time), but I can’t recall which podcast I heard it on or who said it. I found an analogous summary of the idea on the Wiley Online Library site, in an abstract about a chapter of the book Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior: Indispensable Knowledge for Evidence‐Based Management, Second Edition:

This chapter focuses on using the concepts of ability, benevolence, and integrity as a means of increasing trust. Ability, benevolence, and integrity are the most critical facets of trustworthiness. They foster a sense of trust in the leader by followers. Ability reflects the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes of a leader, in both technical areas and general management competencies. Benevolence and integrity are aspects of the leader’s character, and require more time and attention on the part of followers before they can be reliably judged. In order to increase trust, leaders need to take steps to increase their ability, build their benevolence, and demonstrate their integrity. Leaders can do so on a follower‐by‐follower basis, but can also take steps to create a culture of trustworthiness within their organizations.

Breaking down concepts like “trust”—which seem innately understood and obvious—into component parts can be very powerful. It gives you a way “in” when it comes to solving problems dependent on that concept.