By Jeff Baird
I got an ‘A’ on this paper at CSU in 2012, and just thought about it today. Seemed like a good time to blow the dust off and read it again.
Always, always trust your gut feeling. That’s God whispering in your ear. I don’t know about you, but every time I have ignored my gut feeling, I have paid for it. I’ve learned to trust more. “Trust but verify.” Most of all, Trust yourself.
FOLLOWERS MUST TRUST THEIR LEADERS
ORG-300 Applying Leadership Principles
Colorado State University – Global Campus
Dr. Claudia Santin
October 22, 2012
Trust is a characteristic that makes us social creatures. This is especially prevalent in today’s society that is so strongly influenced by on-line communications. (Bekmeier-Feuerhahn, Eichenlaub, 2010). In order to develop any sort of relationship with another person, we must trust them. Our corporate society is based on trusting relationships as well. Where there is a lack of trust, business transactions will not transpire. Buyers must trust sellers, and followers must trust their leaders.
Trust is accepted as a critical component of business relationships. (Henneberg, Jiang, Naude’, 2011). In order to follow a leader, people must have faith in that person, believe in them and trust them. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines trust as the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone, one in which confidence is placed. One of the examples given for proper usage of the word trust is, “His lies and deception shattered my trust in him.” (Merriam-Webster, 2012).
I once worked for a pathological liar who owned an executive search firm. The image he portrayed to outsiders was impeccable and awe inspiring. I bought in early, but soon realized his presentation was a façade. There were daily lies that developed into a sickening pattern which demotivated me. The incessantly misleading behavior was his normal operating procedure, but one that I was not familiar with.
For example, one day this seasoned business owner requested that I contact a client on his behalf. He asked me to tell the client his son had been killed in a car accident in Europe, and he would have to attend the funeral outside of the country. The reason for this lie was in order for him to justify not having to attend a scheduled meeting where all of his competitors would be in attendance as well. As he attempted to sell me on making this call, he said, “I’m not telling you to lie. But, if you have to lie, lie big.” I did not make the call.
The Director of Human Resources of this Midwest based company had requested that all industry executive recruiters attend a mandatory meeting where guidelines were going to be set for future job searches. My new employer had committed multiple character assassinations against the competition. The thought of being seen by them, in an environment he had no control over, made this meeting virtually impossible for him to accept.
Earlier, I had witnessed him answer the phone with an alias name, as he changed his voice to a deeper tone. I had been informed that if someone called and asked for the pseudonym, to transfer the call to him. He worked in the shadows, and gave credence to the sentiment of some that executive recruiters are less than ethical and trustworthy.
As the alias, he appeared to be just another recruiter looking to serve a need by filling a job opening. When, in fact, he had raided a company by contacting and recruiting their mid-to-upper management employees. Then, under the pseudonym, he would fill those same open positions. As I witnessed these kinds of events, my trust level decreased as I began to question his integrity as well as my future with the organization. I simply could not work for someone that I did not trust. Trust is relational, personal, characterized by an emotional attachment, commitment and genuine care and consideration of another person. (Poppo, Schepker, 2010).
On another occasion, my supervisor claimed he was out of town on a business trip. Earlier that same morning, I had seen him driving down a street near the office. The daily deceptions and falsehoods created confusion, animosity and destroyed any loyalty I may have had to him and his small firm. I became jaded, and disengaged from the organization, no longer believing in the bright future that had been presented to me during the job interview. Casey sites that distrust in the workplace has serious effects on employee productivity, engagement, turnover and the financial strength of organizations. (Casey, 2009). After just four months, I resigned from the company.
The media is flooded with examples of deceit and deception from leaders in both the commercial world as well as in politics. Leaders must realize the perception people have of the state of leadership in today’s organizations. In order to lead effectively, leaders must earn the trust of their followers. When employees trust their leaders, they engage in the organization, buy in and operate from a collaborative perspective. (Casey).
After my experiences with the executive recruiter mentioned earlier, and witnessing all of damage he left in his wake, I have learned not to take people or organizations at face value. I research potential new employers and employees more thoroughly. Yet, even after that earlier encounter, I have had employees forge contracts, lie about their college degrees and even lie about having cancer. Trust works both ways, as followers must trust their leaders, and vice versa. Indvik and Johnson cite that lying in the business world is more prevalent than at home because business is viewed more impersonally. We live with lies in the workplace every day. (Indvik, Johnson, 2009). This makes trust even more crucial.
Since leaving that organization, I have committed to operating honestly with an open door, and open communications policy. Honest leaders gain the respect and loyalty of their followers and create a healthy, open culture within their organization. Trust has been growing in stature and higher interest levels for contemporary organizations. Trust building behaviors in leaders include role modeling, clearly communicating a shared vision, empathy for followers and displaying integrity in all actions and decisions. (Pekerti, Sen, 2010). Employee’s trust in their leadership has long been considered an important factor in a company’s success.
Globalization and reliance on distant communications has made trust even more important as leaders and followers collaborate with widely dispersed team members. Trust in a leader is not only important in the overall success of a company. It is also a critical element in employee’s job satisfaction and performance. (Bligh, Torres, 2012). Strong relationships are built on trust, and good teamwork is built on trusting relationships. Followers must trust their leaders in order for organizations to attain the highest levels of success.
Bekmeier-Feuerhahn, S., Eichenlaub, A. What makes for trusting relationships in online communication. Journal of Communication Management 14. 4 (2010): 337-355. )
Bligh, M., Torres, A. How Far Can I Trust You? The Impact of Distance and Cultural Values on Leader’s Trustworthiness. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics 9.2. (May, 2012): 23-38.
Casey, W. Trust: The Critical Factor in Leadership. Public Manager, 38.1. (Spring, 2009): 48-52.
Henneberg, S., Jiang, Z., Naude’, P. Trust is accepted as a critical component of business relationships. (The importance of trust vis-a-vis reliance in business relationships: some international findings). International Marketing Review, 28.4 (2011): 318-339).
Indvik, J., Johnson, P. Liar Liar Your Pants Are on Fire: Deceptive Communication in the Workplace. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communication and Conflict. 13.1. (2009): 1-8.
Pekerti, A., Sen, S. Servant Leadership as antecedent of trust in organizations. Leadership & Organization Development Journal. 31.7. (2010): 643-663.
Poppo, L., Schepker, D., Repairing Public Trust in Organizations. Corporate Reputation Review, suppl. Special Issue: Public Trust in Business 13.2 (Summer, 2010): 124-141.