The Value of Reliability

Who Is Worthy of Your Trust?

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

from New York City Post Office in James A. Farley Building

Thinking of products, the primary value of reliability is in meeting the customer’s expectation that the product will work as intended. The market tends to reject products that fail often and, in turn, desire products that ‘just work.’

We want many things in our lives to be reliable: the train that arrives on time, the mail that gets delivered every day, the investments that provide an expected return, the drug that heals, and the Big Mac that tastes the same no matter where in the world you are.

An extension of the value that we place on reliability is the willingness to pay a premium for products with high reliability. Automobiles, computers, and appliances are all examples where products known for high reliability charge a premium. ‘It’s worth it,’ as the cost of downtime or replacement more than outweighs the additional initial expense.

We also value people that ‘just work.’ Margot Anderson puts it this way: “We place great importance on people … who are able to deliver consistently good results time after time and who can be depended upon to deliver on commitments and promises. Fundamentally they make life … easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding.”

‘You are my rock.’

People think of rocks as stable, solid, and unchanging. To call a person ‘a rock’ means the same thing. That person is someone you can always rely on. And hence, reliability is one of those positive traits that is associated with a true leader.

Lee Colan writes about how to become more reliable. His most practical advice is to respect time, yours and others. If you tell someone you can meet at a certain time, you have made a promise. Being on time shows others that you are a person of your word, that you are dependable, and your word can be trusted.

When late, you are saying, “My time is more valuable than your time.”

Robert Ferguson writes about how reliability is a differentiating value for us humans. To him, reliability has four components:

(1) worthy of trust

(2) dependable

(3) faithful

(4) authentic

All four need to be in place to consider someone reliable, albeit to a varying degree based on the individual.

Many authors have written on why good leaders need to be reliable. I would argue in a slightly cynical manner that the same holds true for bad leaders.

Displaying reliable and predictable behavior is critical. If you are dealing with any one of those, a micromanager, a shouter, a bossy boss, a tyrant, a helicopter, … it is great if this behavior is predictable. Those working with this leader can now cope and find their personal workarounds.

As such, a bad leader is equally dependable, authentic, and worthy of trust.


Robert Ferguson — Reliability: What’s Required To Build It

Margot Andersen — Why Good Leaders Need To Be Reliable

Lee Colan — 8 Ways to Become the Most Reliable Person in the Room

Fred Schenkelberg — Reliability Value

Photo by author

Originally published at on August 29, 2022.



Chief Evangelist for Interim & Fractional Sales Leadership

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Henning Schwinum

Henning Schwinum


Chief Evangelist for Interim & Fractional Sales Leadership