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A person who trusts people will make fewer mistakes than a person who distrusts. 

In his book The Essential Wooden, Coach Wooden discussed the critical nature of building trust:

When spring arrived each year in Indiana, the warming weather would slowly soften the ice covering a little pond near our farm. While the ice still looked safe and solid, strong enough to walk on, it was very dangerous.

Some called it “rotten ice.” Step on it here, and you were fine; step on it there, and it would give way—you’d fall through. The ice was undependable.

A leader who finds it difficult to abide by the Golden Rule is like that Indiana ice in spring time— undependable, untrustworthy. Without trust between a team and leader, there really is no team at all—just a collection of individuals who don’t amount to much.

Do not betray your team, and the team will not betray you. It begins with my father’s teaching of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Abide by his model and you will find yourself leading a team of individuals who are loyal to you and whose bonds to the organization and its mission are sturdy.

Loyalty is a two-way street. You must give it to receive it. Be fair, be just, and be honest, and you will be a leader who inspires loyalty and who has the trust of those under your supervision.

It is not possible for an organization to operate at consistently high levels in a competitive environment without loyalty to a leader who is in turn, loyal to the team. Loyalty is not bought and sold. You earn it.

Trust is needed as well. When you give it, you get it. Like loyalty, it must be earned. It may take years to build trust but it can be lost in a minute. It is precious.

Photo by soo hee kim/

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.