Cultivating trustworthy leadership

What is trust? Individuals expect that an organisation will act with predictability. When that doesn’t happen, trust is broken, according to Veronica Hope-Hailey, Vice President and Dean of the School of Management at Bath University.

Speaking at our latest HR Spotlight, Veronica, who has produced a series of research reports for the CIPD on the subject of trust, said that leaders and institutions are under greater scrutiny since the financial crisis.

During that turbulent period, organisations did not act predictably – the confidence we had in established financial institutions was severely challenged. Since then, there have been a number of individuals who have contributed to a general sense of mistrust towards leaders in our society.

Why does trust matter?

The Edelman barometer is published once a year and is a measure of public trust.

Trustworthy leadership matters because it fosters:

  • increased engagement, commitment, empowerment and co-operation
  • increased information and knowledge-sharing
  • greater operational and organisational performance
  • feelings of safety and pride.

What makes leaders trustworthy?

There are a number of key characteristics observable in trustworthy leaders.

Ability: the capacity to demonstrate that they are capable and perform well. It may be unfair, but women leaders often have to work harder at this than men.

Benevolence: the extent to which leaders reflect the needs of others. Self-interest does not engender trust.

Integrity: demonstrated consistently, over a period of time.

Reliability: research shows reliability is important. People don’t trust a leader because of what they say on social media or from a distance. HR has a really important role to play in ensuring that leaders demonstrate their reliability to employees.

Crisis recovery

How can leaders regain or retain trust following a crisis?

  1. Apologise and take responsibility.
  2. Express regret for others.
  3. Order an immediate and independent investigation.
  4. Remove all those involved or tainted at senior by a scandal.
  5. Work visibly and tirelessly to demonstrate trustworthiness.

About HR Spotlight

Would you like to join us for our next in-depth HR discussion?

HR Spotlight invites a select group of senior HR decision-makers to PES every few months to discuss the challenges they face (with Chatham House rules applying), and to network with each other. Topics are normally introduced by an external speaker. The group is kept to a maximum of 10 participants to ensure quality, in-depth discussions with like-minded people in similar roles, but from different-sized organisations.

What participants say

‘I just wanted to say thank you for today. I genuinely really enjoyed it and felt I learnt lots from listening to Veronica.’ Claire Webber, Head of HR, Lovehoney

If you’d like to know more about HR Spotlight, please contact us.

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