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Trust and Leadership - New Study Reiterates Connection

In a study published by the Ken Blanchard Companies, the link between trust and leadership was reiterated. While the link is by no means surprising (Victor Lipman compares it to the predictability of where the sun rises and sets), the new data can encourage leaders to focus on building trust in the organization.

There has already been much data linking trust and leadership. Daniel McAllister, a researcher who has focused on trust in the workplace, has completed research which shows how trust enables people to take risks, as they don't anticipate getting taken advantage of. In one study, McAllister defines two elements of trust - cognitive and affective. Cognitive trust includes the sense that one knows a sufficient amount about the person in question, and that this information provides "good reason" to trust. Affective trust takes into account the social and emotional bonds made between people.
In the Blanchard study, 1850 participants across many organizations, and based in a variety of countries, were surveyed. The survey items were of two types. One type was based on McAllister's 11-item Affect and Cognitive Trust Scale, asking participants to rate their agreement to statements like "Given my leader's track record, I see no reason to doubt his/her competence and preparation to do the job."
The second type of items was included to understand the participant's intent, based on Blanchard's Work Intention Inventory. These items can indicate positivity and work passion. These include:

  • Intent to remain with the organization
  • Intent to expend additional effort on behalf of the organization
  • Intent to be a good citizen of the organization
  • Intent to perform at high levels
  • Intent to endorse the organization

The study's results showed a high correlation between trust in a leader and all five intention areas. When trust is identified more specifically as affective or cognitive, additional connections come to light. Cognitive trust relates more closely with the concept of organizational citizenship, while affective trust relates more closely to the intent to remain with and endorse the company. 
In the report MacAllister's conclusion is summarized, noting that "trust enables people to take risks because trustworthiness produces the perception that they will not be taken advantage of." Being trustworthy is highly associated with leadership success. 

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