Creating Leadership Trust

Trust is one of the fundamental factors in any working organization from which you can draw conclusions about that organization. Likewise, the behavior and performance levels that are externally apparent can be a strong indicator of trust levels within the organization. It is the character and truthfulness in the collective culture that is the determining factor in the way that members behave in their roles; there must be a high level of trust to achieve truly effective team performance.

From Hostage Exchange To Respectful Collaboration

Leaders need to understand that in low trust situations there is a transactional quality to exchanges and leadership; one thing must be exchanged directly for another. Risk and defensiveness limit the size and scope of leadership to single transactions each requiring close supervision.

Transactional leadership is just as cold and impersonal as it sounds; it occurs in the absence of mature relationships. However, trust can develop from transactional relationships as organization members become familiar with one another. The development of interdependent relationships is a natural process, given time.

Storming Forming And Norming For Leadership Trust

Leadership covers a broad spectrum of behaviors. Its purpose is to create specific outcomes for any group or institution. That covers a lot of ground so different situations will require different styles of leadership. In the normal course of business activities there is a balance of power shared by the organization members, with many factors that are specific to each organizational culture.

The normal course of team formation and trust building progresses from high supervision, low trust transactional leadership in the storming stage of initial contact. As relationships begin forming, the informal structure of the teams and organization emerges gradually until finally, a familiar stable set of relationships develops, referred to as norming.

In many project situations, the balance of power may even be reversed. Project managers will recognize this and perhaps groan; in many cases project managers are required to coordinate the activities of powerful factions. In such situations where the power distribution is reversed, leaders must employ diplomacy and negotiation at the highest level.

Project Management And The Art Of Upward Delegation

The most effective organizations work as tightly knit teams. Effectiveness is dependent on the alignment of the members to the common cause of the institutions. As well as shared frames of reference, there is a fundamental need for shared trust that relationships are safe and will not result in personal loss, either as a matter of losing face or fearing physical sanctions.

When a leader is new to an established organization, as is often the case in project management, the skills that must be expressed most urgently by the leader are the demonstration of competence, a willingness to learn and the ability to lead by serving and supporting the established team members. The leader must trust enough that they can be patient and persistent in the pursuit of respect from their team.

It is vital that leaders develop trusting relationships with all team members. By increasing the leadership trust and developing a sense of alignment, leaders can create the conditions for levels of team performance that will surpass the highest initial expectations.


Bolman, Lee G., and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership. Fourth Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Calloway-Thomas, C., P. Cooper, and C. Blake. Intercultural Communications. Allyn & Bacan, 1999.

Johnson, Craig T. Meeting The Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow. Edition 3. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2009.

Northouse, Peter G. Leadership Theory and Practice. Fourth Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007.

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday, 2006.


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