Research on trust in school settings has produced a solid body of evidence on how this social resource enables individuals, groups, and schools to flourish (Bryk and Schneider 2002; Tschannen-Moran 2014b; Van Maele, Van Houtte, and Forsyth 2014). No matter the role-set (e.g. teacher–principal, teacher–teacher, teacher–student, parent–teacher), trusting relationships underlie the kind of cooperation in which interdependent individuals and groups maximize performance (Forsyth, Adams, and Hoy 2011). Schools, though, differ considerably in the degree to which trust defines critical role relationships (Bryk and Schneider 2002; Forsyth, Adams, and Hoy 2011), making knowledge on trust formation critical to school leadership.

Like most social phenomena, trust requires constant attention and care in order for it to grow within individual relationships then to spread across relational networks within schools and school systems (Van Maele, Van Houtte, and Forsyth 2014). Research evidence has established general characteristics of school environments suitable for trust producing interactions. For instance, trusting relationships tend to form in schools with authentic leaders (Tschannen-Moran 2014b), professional climates (Tschannen-Moran 2009), and opportunities for regular interactions on teaching and learning (Cosner 2009; Wahlstrom and Louis 2008). Further, trust grows out of a learning-oriented culture with homogenous values and beliefs and coherent instructional processes (Van Maele, Van Houtte, and Forsyth 2014).

Describing features of school life associated with trust, is not the same as explaining how school leaders might approach trust building from their position in the organization. Evidence is less robust when it comes to understanding the nature and function of trust-producing mechanisms. With this in mind, the intent of this entry is to develop an argument for intentional leadership conversation as a potential strategy to build a climate of trust.