𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝟯 𝗗𝗶𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗧𝗿𝘂𝘀𝘁
Research suggests that leaders and managers tend to emphasize their competence and strength while downplaying benevolence — an approach that can often undermine trust more than enhance it.
Professor Kent Grayson Associate Professor of Marketing at Kellogg Institute of Management, Northwestern University, shares insights from his more than 20 years of study on the concept of trust.
“𝙊𝙣𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙚’𝙫𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙙 𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙗𝙪𝙞𝙡𝙙 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙨𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙧𝙚𝙚 𝙙𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙬𝙚𝙖𝙠 𝙤𝙣 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙨. 𝘼 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙧 𝙢𝙖𝙮 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙯𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙧 𝙨𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙙𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙖𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙙𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙖𝙢𝙚 𝙝𝙤𝙡𝙙𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙨.”
Questions that can help create better awareness are:
– In what dimensions of trust are we weakest?
– Which areas of trust have been most affected to determine effective solutions?
Honesty and benevolence have a very high correlation because they transmit a sense of “warmth.”
That first impression of warmth is how we judge someone to be trustworthy.
Research conducted by Todorov & Willis (2006) showed that we decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important. Even though we believe we are rational beings, we are hardwired to draw these inferences in a fast and unreflective way.
Their research suggested that people determine whether to trust someone within 100 milliseconds!
These judgements impact all our work relationships. Trust is critical in developing strong relationships and confirmed through consistent behaviors over time. But our initial reaction is based on feeling that someone is benevolent.
Determining whether someone is kind or empathetic is harder to quantify. Therefore, as consumers and employees, we look at corporate responsibility, sustainability, and the commitment to positive causes and improving social good.
Things have changed dramatically through the pandemic and Great Resignation. Employees and jobseekers want assistance programs, mental health support, flexibility, more life-work integration, and access to health benefits for all-around wellbeing.
The #1 reasons for leaving an organization had nothing to do with leadership competence. All related to how people were treated and the experience of disrespect in toxic work environment.
Research on leader warmth versus competence has been going on for more than 20 years in the fields of social and organizational psychology.
Psychologists Paul Zak and Kenneth Nowack assert in their research that empathy is the antidote to toxic leadership.
Susan Fiske, Amy Cuddy, and other researchers have determined that leaders who stress their competence over building trust through warmth, risk losing connection to their employees.
While people respect highly intelligent and competent people, they trust those that exhibit warmth, empathy, and compassion.
Warmth and openness convey psychological safety, persuasion, and stronger influence in leadership. It facilitates trust and communication. The nonverbal cues that we share – a nod, smile, eye contact, even the way we position our body or lean in – are impactful and can be evident in onsite or online environments.
Prioritizing conscious empathy demonstrates that people are being seen and heard; it creates personal connection.
Research by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter showed that the one trait that separates exceptional leaders is compassion.
Teams led by compassionate leaders exhibit better collaboration, stronger commitment, and less turnover. High levels of compassion inspire higher levels of trust between team members making them more likely to share information.
Team members may admire someone’s ability to make difficult decisions and steer the company to profitability. However, when evaluating leadership qualities or those of an immediate supervisor, the factors considered include accessibility, support, dependability and if the leader has their best interests in mind. Does the leader have my back?
In fact, often the trust disconnect occurs because organizations and workers have conflicting priorities. Companies, leaders, and board members stress strength and determination. On the other hand, employees seek empathetic leadership and recognition for their own contributions, efforts, and competence.
This leads to the age-old question that may have many differing answers: Is it better to be trusted or respected? Or, to put it differently, is it warm in here?
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