The Importance of Trust in Leadership

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As the 2012 U.S. presidential election draws near, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would like nothing more than to win the trust of the American people. The concept is as relevant in the world of business and management as it is in politics: trust is increasingly regarded as the core of leadership and as key to the overall health of organizations, and there’s no better time to get a grasp on how trust works in organizations and the related implications for leaders.

The article “Organizational Justice, Trustworthiness, and Trust: A Multifoci Examination,” published in Group & Organization Management by M. Lance Frazier of Oklahoma State University, Paul D. Johnson of Western Carolina University, Mark Gavin of West Virginia University, Janaki Gooty of UNC Charlotte, and D. Bradley of the University of Missouri, examines experiences of justice and the ways in which these experiences impact our trust in authority figures:

Trustworthiness is composed of three main components: ability, benevolence, and integrity. Ability is defined as the perceived skills, competencies, and expertise that enable the trustee to be successful within a particular domain of interest. Benevolence reflects the trustor’s belief that the trustee has the trustor’s best interests in mind and cares about the trustor. Integrity is defined as the trustor’s perception that that trustee adheres to a set of principles that the trustor finds acceptable.

Trust is also credited as “a driving force in organizational change and survival,” according to “At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust: Trust Across Multiple Organizational Levels,” published in the Journal of Management by C. Ashley Fulmer and Michele J. Gelfand of the University of Maryland. This review article takes a comprehensive look at the literature on trust in organizations and provides a blueprint for future research.

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