The Leadership Trust Gap

How much do you trust your boss? Do you believe he/she is not only competent but ethical? Just how big is the trust gap with leadership in your organization?

In a perfect world, we would be blessed with transformational servant leaders who are intrinsically motivated to provide benefits to their followers. But in the real world, bosses are rarely that accommodating. We nevertheless expect our leaders to make things better for both the business and our careers.

Corporate leadership is simultaneously envied and disdained. We are in awe of charismatic leaders who take charge and earn big compensation packages, bonuses and perks. At the same time, we cannot deny that the gap between the rich and poor has been steadily increasing for decades, and the middle class has declined.

Furthermore, the financial crisis—the worst since the Great Depression—has been slow to recover. Many blame executives at our top financial institutions for eroding trust in leadership. We are left with an impression of widespread corporate corruption that continues to be amply rewarded, even when CEOs are dismissed for poor performance.

A 2011 Gallup poll confirmed that corporate America’s reputation is in tatters, with 62% affirming they want major corporations to have less influence in the future—a figure that increased 10% in a decade. A whopping 67% of those polled said they resent big business’ influence.

A survey of Fox News’ right-of-center viewers found that most overwhelmingly believe (a 6:1 margin) that corporate leaders have done more to hurt than help the economy.

In order for people to be fully engaged, they need to believe they are following trustworthy leaders who inspire them emotionally. Two barriers create a trust gap between leaders and their staff:

  1. The financial chasm that results from large pay disparities
  2. A disconnect between verbal and nonverbal communication

As humans, we have an inherent desire to identify and bond with a leader, but we instinctively defend our own interests and exercise caution before committing our careers and livelihoods to anyone. Unless there’s trust, as followers, we simply won’t be engaged or committed.

What do you think about the trust gap… is it growing or closing in your business?

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