Report reveals leaders critical to repair broken trust

There is an unbreakable connection between leadership, communication and trust. But many leadership communication approaches are completely unfit for purpose, and the integral role for communication practitioners is creating a trusting company.

These are just some of the findings revealed in a brand new report out today highlighting the critical role of 21st century leadership communication in repairing the broken trust of UK employees.

LeadershipCommunication professionals have long understood the importance of effective leadership communication within their organisations, but this information released today by Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, in collaboration with Top Banana and the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), goes where no other has gone before in making the case for improved communication from business leaders, in order to repair that trust.

I wrote recently about the Edelman Trust Barometer and this IoIC study draws on those results, revealing trust in UK businesses has suffered a serious decline since the 2008 global financial crisis, reaching its lowest recorded levels last year.[1]

With just one in four members of the public trusting business leaders to do the right thing[2], one in five to tell the truth[3] and 54 per cent believing that business greed is the main driver behind innovation[4], it’s fair to say UK business is in the middle of an antitrust epidemic.

Radically evolved role of leadership

The report draws on recent academic and mainstream research in the areas of leadership, trust and communication and highlights the radically evolved role of leadership in the 21st century. It looks at the central role of effective leadership communication in creating and repairing trust, starting with foundations such as listening and the role of face to face communication and moving through to more complex ideas that have already started a paradigm shift in UK business culture.

trustThe idea that leaders are important to communication isn’t new, but I like the way the information has been presented and the links that have been made. It’s refreshing to see the IoIC involved in something like this and I welcome it as think this it will help internal communicators discover more about these important topics.

I also like the way they have presented the information, including the full information and infographic (see the end of this article), to make it readable and useable content for communicators to benefit from. More please!

There’s a good balance of academic thinking and practical guidelines for business leaders, and those who support them, to develop new, trusting work environments to drive higher performance and a more ethical workplace.

There’s a lot of good content in the report and it’s well worth a read, especially if you’re studying communication.

You can access the whole report here.

So what’s in it?

The report reveals many leadership communication approaches are completely unfit for purpose and the integral role for communication practitioners is creating a trusting company. (Tweet this)

What struck me were the elements of what makes up trust in an organisation (see the image below):

IoIc study

Katalin Illes, Principal Lecturer in Leadership and Development at Westminster Business School and co-author of the report said: “Continuously declining levels of trust in society indicate that we are not relating to each other in the right way. Humans are social creatures and past and present findings confirm that strong, supportive communities have higher survival rates and prosper more. This is also true of business communities.

“Leaders have a key role to play in changing their own perceptions and helping the change process of others. The trouble is that most leaders are unable to recognise, let alone change, the structural habits of attention they and their organisations use to drive key factors such as trust. This presents a significant opportunity for communication practitioners.”

The Leadership moment

I particularly like the “Leadership moment”, which is billed as one of the most exciting current developments in leadership research. It builds on the idea of the importance of creating close relationships with employees in order to build trust.

The report states: “Leadership communication depends on understanding what moves the audience to listen and what moves them to act. This understanding requires emotional intelligence, self-awareness and an increased awareness of the hopes, needs and aspirations of others. When a leader communicates his/her ideas with personal passion, commitment, openness and honesty an atmosphere of inclusivity (“we are in it together”) is created. This atmosphere energises and connects people and creates a trusting can do attitude across the organisation.”

Sounds smart to me – see the report for more information.


The Leadership Moment



Want to know more?

Key content covered in the report includes:
➔ Listening with an open heart, mind and will – achieving deeper organisational ‘listening’ through communicative and relational leadership styles

➔ 21st century leadership myths – ceasing to think of leadership as a position and starting to think of it as a collective process to create transparent work environments based on trust and shared purpose

➔ ‘Rich’ communication in a digital landscape – the heightened importance of leaders being physically present and face to face communication

➔ The Leadership Moment[5] – effective leadership communication based on inclusivity, emotional intelligence and understanding what moves the audience to listen and act

➔ Leading from the future as it emerges[6] – development of leadership capabilities in order to be aware of, anticipate and be ready to adapt for change, create a trusting future that would otherwise not be possible

➔ Repairing trust – common causes of trust destruction in organisations, how employees evaluate trustworthiness and how leaders can communicate to rebuild trust

➔ Transitive trust and the critical role of line managers – the science behind transitive trust and how middle layers of management are integral to building trusting organisations

➔ Creating a trusting company – the importance of value congruence and how employees trust their companies based on its perceived distributive, procedural and interactional fairness.

Steve Doswell, Chief Executive of the IoIC said: “Trust is essential. Without it social groups cannot function properly. It’s true on any scale, from individual families to the international community and it’s certainly true of businesses and all employer organisations. The value of this report for communication practitioners is that it explains with academic rigour the unbreakable connection between leadership, communication and trust, it provides powerful arguments to make the case for trust-building communication styles, methods and behaviours and it provides a suite of practical insights to start supporting your company’s leadership on building trust in your organisation today.”

See the dedicated website to find out even more.

[1] Edelman Trust Barometer Survey 2014
2 Edelman Trust Barometer Survey 2014
3 Edelman Trust Barometer Survey 2014
4 Edelman Trust Barometer Survey 2015
5 Donna Ladkin (2010) Rethinking Leadership
6 Otto Scharmer’s Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges.


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on All Things IC blog 26 February 2015.

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