Sunday, January 22, 2017

Can Change Happen Without Trust?

This is an interesting question to think about when reading and learning about good leadership. Can change happen without trust? In the book, The Truth About Leadership (Kouzes & Posner), Truth Six discusses trust. The first statistic in the chapter states that high trust organizations have been shown to outperform low-trust organizations by 286 percent in total return to shareholders. This is a staggering amount. In a sense, I think trust is an obvious trait we all want in our leaders, but I do think it can be difficult to always demonstrate trust once you are in a leadership position. 

Here are four actions the book describes as key behaviors that contribute to whether others see you as a trustworthy leader:
  • Behave predictably and consistently.
    • When others are relying on your words and actions, its important they can depend on you. Being predictable or consistent in leadership helps build trust.
  • Communicate clearly. 
    •  When you are a leader, everything you say counts. So before saying things out loud to people, make sure you and others, understand your intention.
  • Treat promises seriously.
    • There might be problems when people have different views of the importance of your promises. Take them seriously and stick to them.
  • Be forthright and candid.
    • Discovering that someone has been dishonest casts doubt over everything he says and does. The more you share, the greater working relationships you have.
So, does change happen without trust? No, I don't think change can truly happen without trust. Any leader in a work setting can require or mandate different things to happen. People may view these as hoops to jump through. A true leader, who has given and earned the trust of their followers will be able to create a true change in a system. I think with trust, people are more willing to experiment without the fear of failing and test out more innovative processes. 

Below is a Ted Talk video featuring Simon Sinek, who shares the importance of trust and why good leaders make you feel safe. The world can sometimes be filled with danger, we need people to watch out for us, and we need to watch out for each other. The leader sets the tone.

Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. "Truth Six: Trust Rules." The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-matter Facts You Need to Know. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010. 75-90. Print. 


  1. Katie, I enjoy reading your posts because you abridge the content concisely and neatly. It is solid review after reading the chapters. The video is also a perfect tie in to the content. Your post makes it very clear that anyone can be a leader, not just people in power. It's really more about action than the label or title or position. It also makes me appreciate our students who recognize this as well. Thank you for your post!

  2. Katie,
    Thank you for your post and your honesty. I agree with you 100% Change cannot happen without trust. You bring up some excellent points about how bosses can mandate and require their employees to do things, but that will not bring about change. Perhaps it will bring about compliance, but not systemic change.

    You also mention that great leaders engage others to "experiment without the fear of failing." Yes! i love this concept and think that more of us need to live our lives without feel. Leadership can empower this.

    Way to go!