The Three Pillars of Trust: How to realign yourself and shift from manipulation to influence

October 3, 2022

The Three Pillars of Trust: How to realign yourself and shift from manipulation to influence

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” — George Macdonald

Influence is the ability to impact an outcome or a person. Manipulation is forcing people overtly or covertly to act the way you want. Both have the ability to impact actions and decisions, but their main difference lies in trust. While one operates in trust, the other relies on forceful (and often harmful, psychological or otherwise) tactics.

As leaders, we need to get people to do things in a certain way in order to achieve our purpose. Those people could be your teammates or your clients/consumers. There is a degree of mistrust in businesses, especially in sales, where people think “This person/brand is trying to manipulate me into buying their stuff,” or “My boss is trying to manipulate me to do more jobs than what I am paid for.”

If that is happening to your business, you need to do a quick and honest check: Is my business gaining the trust of my stakeholders (your employees, clients, customers, etc.)?

Jon Levy explained it well in our previous interview. As a behavioral scientist, his studies evolved into how communities and a sense of belonging can cultivate influence. In his book, You’re Invited, he wrote:

“The most universal strategy for success is creating meaningful connections with those who can impact you, your life, and the things you care about.” — Jon Levy, You’re Invited

And in the middle of it all, trust is important. According to Jon, “Trust… is the willingness to be vulnerable,” and it is founded on three pillars: Competence, Honesty (or Integrity), and Benevolence.


As leaders, we value competence highly. We want to make sure that we can walk the talk and be able to execute our plans successfully. In any profession, we want to make sure the person we are doing business with can do things right. You don’t want to be on the operation table with an incompetent surgeon, or waste time and money sitting on meetings with a marketing manager who doesn’t know how to do the job.

When we can deliver on our promises, people trust us. At the very least, they trust our words and our skills. 


Nobody trusts a misleading business. When we try to cover up our mistakes or shift the blame on others to avoid taking responsibility, our integrity as a leader and as a brand takes a hit.

Honesty can be difficult at times, but it is necessary to uphold a trustworthy name. When people can rely on you and your business to do what you say you will do, they acknowledge that honesty and integrity, and in turn trust you.


Benevolence means acting with the other person’s best interest in mind. This usually goes hand-in-hand with honesty, in terms of product/service safety, protocols, et cetera. For personal relationships, this might not always be the case. Sometimes we tell “white lies” to protect someone we care about.

However, that dishonesty, done for the sake of the other person, might not always be viewed favorably, no matter what your intentions are.

But at the heart of it, caring about someone, and putting their interests first, helps make people safe, and makes them trust you.

You would want your car mechanic to put your safety at the forefront when doing repairs to your car—not have them skimp on materials or add anything extra, just to get paid more or hit the quota. No one wants to be used, and when businesses act in a non-benevolent way, people lose trust in their brand, which could prove fatal to any business.

Influence vs. Manipulation

When there is a misalignment between those three pillars, trust is broken, and influence turns into manipulation. The three must be aligned in order to maintain and strengthen the influence our brands have built. And according to Jon, during our conversation, those three don’t always weigh equally. 

Sometimes, people can trust a benevolent and honest business even if they are not the most competent among their competitors. That is because competence is something that can be improved over time, but character traits such as honesty and benevolence are harder to address.

Trust is crucial to your success. When trust is broken, it is harder to mend than to establish that trust in the first place.

Take the time to reflect and ask, “Is my business a competent, honest, and benevolent business?” If not, maybe you need to make some major changes to fix that.

The good news is, when people do trust you, they take the initiative to opt-in to your influence. And the people around them who trust them are also influenced by them, thereby increasing your influence.

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.