Lack of Leadership Trust: What Can You Do?

I asked this question over on my Facebook wall: “Would you speak up to the boss about questionable practices?” Several people commented about how doing so cost them their jobs! I’ll bet this is more wide spread than imagined. No wonder people don’t speak up to the boss

I looked up some stats on lack of leadership trust. No surprise. There is a lack of trust in senior management, according to a survey by the human-resource firm Watson Wyatt:

  • Only 49 percent of employees have trust and confidence in their senior managers.
  • Just 55 percent say senior leaders behave consistently with core values.
  • Only 53 percent believe senior management has made the right changes to stay competitive.

Clearly, much is lacking in confidence in our senior managers. In 2008, some 40 percent of surveyed executives doubted their leaders had credible plans to address the economic crisis. According to this same survey of 800 senior managers by Booz & Company in December 2008, nearly half (46 percent) lacked faith in their leaders’ ability to execute a recovery plan.

I’m wondering what that vote of confidence would look like if the survey were conducted today, three years post recession. Is this problem worsening? Is this an opportunity for other managers to step up and be more proactive?

For sure, such a lack of confidence harms an organization’s ability to move forward. And that should create some opportunities for the right people who know how to speak up in the right way at the right time.

In light of these problems, some up and coming managers have unprecedented opportunities to step forward and offer course corrections. Good times allow organizations to ride out challenges, but today’s tough financial climate won’t permit a wait-and-see approach.

But what if you don’t want to risk speaking up to the boss? You know that doesn’t always go well. Yet sometimes the boss needs your help. He or she may be struggling yet unwilling or unable to ask for help.

While senior executives don’t set out to fail, research published in the Baylor Business Review shows they make several common mistakes:

  • 80 percent fail because of ineffective communication skills and practices.
  • 79 percent fail because of poor work relationships and interpersonal skills.
  • 69 percent fail because of person/job mismatch.
  • 61 percent fail because they didn’t clarify direction and performance expectations.
  • 56 percent fail because of delegation and empowerment breakdowns.

When strong leadership doesn’t come from above, it’s up to the people in the middle to launch a rescue operation. That may be you and I, or any one in the organization. But how do you do that without risking your job?

Your comments are welcome, here, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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