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Trust in Leadership — One Key Factor in Successful Organizations


Everyone has a different definition of leadership. Conversations buzz about whether a leader is born or if a leader can be made. No matter if someone is a natural born leader or given a position of leadership, great leadership boils down to one thing: trust.


To be effective, leaders must earn their team’s trust. Trust is the glue that holds leaders to their followers and provides them with organizational and leadership success. Without trust, even the most capable and qualified leaders will only get so far.


Why is trust so important?

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way organizations function. These disruptions have left managers attempting to lead employees who are out of sight, with some new-hires never even getting to meet their boss or co-workers in person. This transition has revealed a huge gap in trusting work relationships. Remote work offers lots of opportunities and flexibility, but many managers have dealt with the uncertainty of working from home by controlling or constantly checking in on their employees’ work. This constant monitoring, signals to employees that their managers attitude towards them is not a very positive one. Rather, it is a negative one as it is clear their employers believe they are slacking off from their work. Ultimately, this creates an environment of distrust.


So, why does that even matter? As an employer, it is one of your responsibilities to make sure that your employees are completing tasks adequately and efficiently—we get that. However, there is a thin line between control and trust, and it often gets blurred. Merriam Webster defines trust as the “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”


What can we learn from this definition for managers to be better equipped with building trust? First, if trust is built, leaders don’t need to remind their followers they are in charge. There is assured reliance on both the manager and employee to carry out what they were meant to. Second, if such positive expectations are flourishing, then no reason exists to fear being vulnerable to the actions of the other. That means, no control tactics should even be necessary!


Becoming a leader that builds and maintains trust instead of cultivating control also improves organizational results. According to Harvard Business Review, compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

  • 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


So, while building trust may be the last thing on your to-do list as a leader right now, you should probably make it a priority and leave the micro-management behind—it won’t be needed!



“Trust must be appropriated with intelligence.

Trust is granted through experience.

Be vulnerable to others.

KEY: BE TRUSTWORTHY”

Source: Onora O'Neill, Ted X , June 2013





Building Trust

In a Facebook Survey, we asked 100 people what attributes of leadership they believe builds trust. Here were the most common answers:

  • Dependability

  • Empathy

  • Reliability

  • Graciousness

  • Genuine Concern

  • Logic

  • Honesty

  • Transparency

  • Authenticity

  • Integrity

  • Consistency

  • Competency


Of course, building trust will look different with each of your employees. One employee may begin to trust your leadership when you show empathy when they call out for a mental health day. You may build trust with another employee when you show integrity by admitting when you make a mistake.


Whether working remotely or not, your organization and you as a leader will benefit from building trust. In a crisis like this pandemic, your company will need, if it doesn’t already, all the positive effects of trust. Leaders, don’t wait until you are in survival mode to start building trustworthy relationships—it may be too late.


It’s not about being lenient on your employees or lowering your expectations for them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. It’s never too late to start.


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