Trust and Organizational Structure
Trust Defined

Is Trust an Essential Leadership Behavior?

Sweeney, et al, in Trust and Influence in Combat, are making a case for a correlation between the level of trust subordinates have in their leaders and the amount of leadership influence they will accept. Most leaders today probably accept the fact that a significant part of their role is the ability to influence others. Citing a number of authors and researchers, Sweeney, et at, conclude that the leadership literature up to 2009 would view trust as “an important outcome of leader behaviors, but not critical to the exercise of influence” (p. 240). This study, then, was designed to show that “trust is necessary and essential to the exercise of influence beyond compliance”.

I like the use of the word “compliance”. In our work we do all we can to help team leaders move the behaviors of those they lead from compliance to commitment. And, we show them how important relationships are in that endeavor. It doesn’t take much convincing for people to see this link. We have not, however, been making the case for the importance of trust in these relationships. And this is where I see my current study of trust taking me.

Back to the word “influence”. We are an authorized partner of Everything DiSC® - a new division of John Wiley & Sons. (They purchased Inscape Publishing last year). A recent Wiley book, The Work of Leaders, and a companion profile originally published by Inscape, The Work of Leaders, is based on significant research which resulted in an elegant model of the real work of leaders - crafting a Vision, building Alignment, & championing Execution. When we first introduced this model to a group of leaders running small businesses in our area, they quickly gravitated to discussing alignment. It seemed that once the vision was clear to these leaders they really struggled with turning it into something others would follow. Sound like a problem with leadership influence to you? it does to me. So, once again, this study spoke to me. I’ll end this post with one more quote; this time from page 250:

“First, and most importantly, the study found that the level of followers’ trust in a leader was highly predictive of their willingness to accept the leader’s influence regarding motivation to become better group members, strive for excellence, or improve as a person. This is an important finding because it provides empirical evidence to support the link between the trust-development process and the influence process, as hypothesized.”

And, I might add, the link between trust and alignment with a vision.


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