Trust: A Key to Leadership – Nu Leadership Series

“In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.”
Ken Blanchard

American workers are filled with distrust. What can leaders do to get back the trust of their followers? Sadly, most leaders either ignore or dismiss trust as a critical virtue for followers. Cynicism spreads across America’s workplaces. Kouzer and Posner, authors of Credibility, state that three-fourths of workers view that top executives do pretty much what they want no matter what people think.

Unfortunately, many people feel that today’s leaders lack character and will get ahead at any cost. This viewpoint is even surfacing in America’s children. According to the Josephson Institute’s 2006 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, 42 percent of high school students think a person has to lie or cheat sometimes to get ahead. Many bosses hurt the thought of dealing with the ethical behaviors of workers. It would be easier without people. Machines don’t need trust. Let’s investigate this ethical problem closer.

Employees simply don’t trust today’s leaders. Riddled by scandals and self interest initiatives, contemporary leaders become figure heads. They control employees with transactional relationships. However, a leader’s credibility depends on the quality of the relationship maintained with followers. Although numerous organizations are loaded with talented people, teamwork cannot exist unless there is trust. Trust is earned. Therefore, relationship-building becomes important for 21st century organizations.


Ciulla, J.B. (1998). Ethics: The Heart of Leadership. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Hackman, M. & Johnson, C. (2000). Leadership: A communication perspective. Waveland Press.

Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Credibility. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Yukl, G. (2002). Leadership in Organizations. Delhi, India: Pearson Education, Inc.

© 2006 by Daryl D. Green