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ARTICLE: Why Leadership Trust Is Critical in Times of Change and Disruption


Whether it’s leading teams in the office, remotely, or a hybrid of both, it’s critical for leaders to build and maintain trust with their people. With the continuing COVID-19 crisis, leaders must be prepared to adapt to rapid shifts and continuous disruption, and lead their teams in new and innovative ways. Leadership trust creates the stable foundation for employees and their organizations to flex, adapt, and thrive in these continuously changing times.

What Is Leadership Trust?

The workforce can’t do their best work if they doubt others’ intentions or capabilities, the direction or viability of the organization, or their own ability to keep up with the demands placed on them. To inspire trust from others, leaders need to show reciprocal trust in their people. In high-trust environments, people show up and to do their best work, gain productive energy, creativity, speed, and better results. They align around a common purpose, take risks, support each other, and communicate openly and honestly.

Trust is built by balancing these 2 sides of the change equation within organizations:

  • The structural side: New external realities and the business system and process changes needed to address them (e.g., an organizational restructure in response to a global pandemic)

  • The people side: The internal, psychological transitions people go through to adjust mindsets, behaviors, and culture to new realities and business processes.

To address the structural side of change, leaders need to leverage strengths and create commitment across the organization. To address the people side of change, leaders must connect with people emotionally, recognize where they are in the transition process, and model resiliency, curiosity, and compassion.

Although these 2 sides often feel like paradoxes, leaders cannot afford the simplicity of either addressing the structural side or people side of change. They can only advance change objectives effectively by focusing, instead, on “yes, and” approaches.

Building Leadership Trust: A Collaborative Effort

Teams report greater psychological safety—a key driver of team performance and innovation—at work when they regularly share information and develop relationships of mutual influence with others. A shared understanding and language to talk about behaviors that affect trust can result in more productive conversations about team performance that create stronger bonds between leaders and employees.

Leadership trust isn’t a one-off initiative. It takes leaders who are willing to show integrity, change behavior, and take on the hard work of collaborating across boundaries and dealing with differences. Trust represents a core human need we all have: to trust others, to be trusted in return, and to trust in ourselves.

When trust is present, people align around the purpose of their team, embrace goals and objectives, willingly collaborate, and are empowered to do their best work. When trust is absent, or made vulnerable, work becomes more difficult and takes longer to execute. With the pace of change in today’s organizations, leaders need trust more than ever before.

Read the full article at the Center for Creative Leadership.

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