Authenticity and Trust

A key component of authentic leadership is ‘trust’.  To put your trust in someone or something is a belief that you will not be harmed or let down.  In human relationships this also encompasses a belief in the honesty, integrity and judgement of the person being trusted.  Trust plays an important role in leadership because without it, there would be no followership.
 

Trusting Relationships

There are many ways that we can better understand ‘trust’. From a psychological perspective, Dietz (2016) suggested that trust involves at least two people; a trusting partner and a person who is trusted. The trusting partner takes a risk and expects that the trusted person will perform an action that is beneficial or at least not detrimental to them. This is based on our thoughts and feelings.
 
The development of trusting relationships in organisations may also be understood in terms of social exchange, i.e. feelings of mutual obligation and support reinforces and stabilises trust amongst ‘exchange partners’, which supports the development of trusting relationships over time.
 

Leadership and Trust

Drucker (1999) notes that that leaders need to understand how important ‘trust’ is to effective leadership and how it impacts on leadership work stating: “Organisations are no longer built on force, but on trust.”
 
The presence or absence of trust can be explained in business and economic terms. In 2016, PwC’s 2016 global CEO survey highlighted that 55% of CEOs believe that lack of trust within their organisations is a threat to both growth and the ability to innovate. Zak (2016) reported that organisations with high levels of trust have employees with 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.
 

 

High-Trust Environments

High-trust environments are commonly associated with organisations that demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Employees are challenged to stretch themselves, but are not given unachievable tasks
  • Employees have a high level of discretion in their working practice and mistakes are allowed
  • Employees are respected for their skills and assigned roles where they can make best use of them
  • There is openness in communication and information is broadly shared
  • Employees are expected to challenge and question
  • Leaders put effort into building relationships
  • Employees are allowed to develop additional skills
  • Leaders are prepared to ask for help from employees
  • Contribution, excellence and success are recognised and rewarded

Organisations such as Google are recognised as high trust environments with innovations such as letting employees take breaks when they wish, having ‘chillout’ and games areas within their offices, and even allowing staff to chose their own job titles. Senior engineers in Google can also allocate 20% of their working time to their own ideas and innovations. Whilst this latter piece of trust may at first appear to be a risk of resources, highly successful (and profitable) developments have come from it. including Google Earth.

Building A High Trust Environment

There are a number of immediate steps you can take to start developing trust from your employees:

  1. By example - show that you trust those around you
  2. Look for win:win in relationships
  3. Do not procrastinate or avoid issues
  4. Be honest and share information openly (including bad news)
  5. Respond fairly to requests and do not make unachievable demands
  6. Respect other people’s time and views

Trust is a relationship issue. It cannot just be expected, it must be earnt. Of course, all the benefits of building trust within an organisation can apply equally to relationships between organisations in a business to business context.

References
Covey, S., with Merrill, R (2006). The Speed of Trust, the one thing that changes everything Simon and Shuster: London
Peter F Drucker, ‘Managing oneself’, Harvard Business Review, January 2005 (March 1999), p.108
Dietz, G (2016). Developing high trust relationships Open Learn, Open University
Zak, P., J (2017). The Neuroscience of Trust Harvard Business Review

Further Resources