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Why effective leadership starts with trust

Trust is a critical foundation that underpins leadership success.

Trust is a critical foundation that underpins leadership success.


Employees in high-trust organisations are better at collaborating, more productive and show greater loyalty

than their peers in low-trust organisations. This is because they feel empowered to take risks and innovate, which leads to better performance for the organisation as a whole.


But whilst competent leaders are seen as capable of guiding their teams toward success, a recent Gallup study concluded that just two in ten feel highly confident in their leaders to manage emerging challenges.


The link between trust and engagement


Trust is closely linked to employee engagement and essential for a strong and healthy organisational culture. When employees trust their leaders, they are more likely to be motivated and committed to their work, increasing productivity and job satisfaction. It also encourages collaboration among team members. When there is a foundation of trust in a team, members are more likely to share ideas, collaborate effectively, and resolve conflicts constructively.


Alignment between a leader’s actions, words and values are the key to building an engaged workforce. Many employees are more likely to become devoted to an organisation when they see leadership practices that match their own beliefs and values. When there is a disconnect between what leaders say and do, employees become less engaged in their work and less committed to the organisation overall.


On the other hand, employees who trust their leaders are more willing to take risks, suggest new ideas, and think creatively, knowing that their contributions will be valued. This in return impacts talent retention as employees are more likely to stay in an environment where they have confidence in their leadership and feel secure in their roles.


Building and maintaining trust


Building and maintaining trust is an ongoing process that requires commitment and consistent effort and for leaders to set the standard for trust by demonstrating trustworthiness in their actions and behaviours. Consistency between words and actions is paramount.


To build trust, communicate effectively and identify opportunities, it is important that leaders listen to their employees. Feedback is one of the most valuable tools an organisation has that enables leaders to learn about employee engagement. By actively seeking feedback, the leadership team will have a better idea of how well they are serving their employees’ needs and what they can do to improve. Organisations that act on this feedback have a greater chance of improving engagement than those who don’t.


As a result, leaders can show trust in their team members by delegating responsibilities and giving them the autonomy to make decisions within their roles. This shows that they have confidence in their abilities. However, to ensure that every employee is aware of their role within the organisation and able to contribute to its success, it is crucial that they have a thorough understanding of what’s expected from them. This can be achieved by communicating a clear message, outlining the goals of the organisation, and explaining how everyone plays an important part in meeting those goals.


Explicitly defining goals and performance requirements not only ensures that leaders have clearly defined expectations but will also encourage autonomy and a sense of ownership among team members. Organisations where team members feel heard and valued create an environment of diversity of thought and perspectives that fosters trust among different groups. Acknowledging and rewarding the efforts and achievements of team members can enhance trust and recognising their contributions reinforces that their work is valued.


In times of crisis or uncertainty, the importance of trust becomes even more apparent. During challenging periods, employees look to their leaders for guidance and assurance. Trust can be a stabilising force that helps organisations navigate turbulent waters. Leaders who have built trust within their teams are more likely to inspire confidence, provide a sense of direction, and foster resilience in the face of adversity.


Trust is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing commitment, and it pays dividends in the form of engaged and loyal employees, increased productivity, and long-term organisational success. Leaders who prioritise trust by leading with competence, integrity, and reliability can create a work environment where their teams thrive. At Acumen, we are dedicated to equipping managers with practical tools to tackle real-life challenges. Our comprehensive range of training and development programs, including customised interventions and off-the-shelf courses, helps organisations foster a culture of respect and empower their employees. To learn more about our programs and how they can benefit your organisation, please contact Simon at


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