The 10 Laws of Trust: A book review by Bob Morris

The 10 Laws of Trust, Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great, Expanded Edition
Joel Peterson with David A. Kaplan
HarperCollins Leadership/HarperCollins (September 2019)

“Your title makes you a manager. Your people will decide whether or not you’re a leader.” Donna Dubinsky

Although I would never characterize any guidelines, principles or core values of trust as “laws,” I think this book — written by Joel Peterson with David A. Kaplan — makes a valuable contribution to knowledge leadership. More specifically, to our understanding of how leaders in any organization — whatever its size or nature may be — can earn and then retain others’ trust and, thereby, establish and then nourish a workplace culture within which mutual respect and mutual trust are most likely to thrive. Another and perhaps even more difficult challenge is to provide leadership that restores trust.

Peterson devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten so-called “laws” and shares his thoughts about WHY each is essential and HOW it can have significant organizational impact. He adds two appendices (“A Diagnostic Tool” and “Two Cases of Betrayal”) and two mini-case studies. He draws upon wide and deep experience “over the course of more than four decades in business, in the context of more than twenty-three hundred different investments — including startups, turnarounds, and rapid-growth companies — I’ve worked with hundreds of investors and partners all over the world, and thousands of employees in companies across multiple industries.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Peterson’s coverage:

o Betrayal (Pages 3-5)
o Nature of trust (19-20)
o Starting with integrity (21-28)
o Empowering employees (39-49)
o Accountability (51-56)

o Creating common [shared] dreams (57-67)
o Importance of trust (69-77)
o Transparency (70-73 and 75-76)
o Four principles to build trust(71-76)
o Embracing respectful conflict (79-86)

o Jim Collins/Good to Great (87-88)
o Humility and trust (91-92)
o Striving for win-win negotiations (95-100)
o Five mindsets to consider (103-105)
o Restoring trust (107-124)

o Seven realities of betrayal (113-124)
o Lance Armstrong (115-116)
o Forgiveness (118-121)


o “A Diagnostic Tool” (127-129)

Two Case Studies:

o A Showdown: Main Street vs. Wall Street (131-151)
o Fiduciary Breach: Marie Johnson vs. Her Lawyer (152-168)

When employees and customers are asked what is most important to them, trust is almost always ranked among the top five. That said, it is possible for organizations as well as individuals to lose in only a moment another’s trust that may have taken months (if not years) to earn.

The material in the last and final chapter, “How to Restore Trust,” may be for some readers the most valuable of all. “From  betrayal, I’ve learned to harvest four otherwise hard-to-come-by benefits:

1.Escaping one-sided relationships.
2.Developing the gift to rebound.
3.More fully appreciating those who are trustworthy.
4.Better assessing at the outset those likely to disappoint.”

With David A. Kaplan, Joel Peterson provides in this volume an abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that can help almost any organization or individual become and then remain worthy of respect and trust. However, mistakes are made, misunderstanding occur, and crises will result. In that event, keep in mind that the Chinese character for “crisis” has two meanings: peril and opportunity.


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