What Every Leader Should Know About Trust and Influence

Five ways to increase your trust influence

Posted Jan 27, 2016

Perhaps the opening phrase of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2016 captures it best. "There is deeply disturbing news ..." it reads. Their annual survey involving 33,000 respondents in 28 countries found: "The trust of the mass population can no longer be taken from granted, and any continuation of the 'grand illusion' is dangerous for leaders in today's world."

That "grand illusion" refers to an existing belief that people will automatically follow or trust those with title or authority. No more. Consider these Edelman results:

  • "Trust is rising in the elite or 'informed public' group -- those with at least a college education, who are very engaged in media, and have an income in the top 25 percent. However, in the 'mass population' (the remaining 85 percent of our sample) trust levels have barely budged since the Great Recession."
  • "Rising income inequality, high-profile revelations of greed and misbehavior and the democratization of media have flipped the classic pyramid of influence. The net result is a new phenomenon where the most influential segment of the population is at the same time the least trusting."
  • "No nation presents a larger divide than the U.S., with a nearly 20 point gap between the trusting informed publics and distrusting mass population."

Today it's not the CEO or a government official who is the most influential or most trusted, but a "person like yourself" or an "average employee."

These most trusted and influential of stakeholders in an organization -- employees -- are also the least likely to trust their own company. As Edelman puts it, "Inequality of trust and income have important consequences." This is now one of those consequences.

Bingimage - free to use or share
Source: Bingimage - free to use or share

The bottom line is this: People don't give ideas, discretionary efforts, enthusiasm, followership, or their best work to people they don't trust.

Here are five things every leader should know about trust and influence times:

  1. Trust is the new workplace currency. What companies need to ensure growth, innovation, and sustainability can no longer be bought with just a paycheck.
  2. Trust doesn't come with a title. Trust is built through everyday actions -- the alignment of what leaders say and what they do.
  3. Engagement and innovation need trust. Trust doesn't cause engagement or innovation, but it enables them; an engagement problem is a trust problem.
  4. Trust begets trust. If you want people to show up and do great work, you need to create a culture fueled by trust. As a leader, to get trust you must give it.
  5. Think local. People work for people, not for companies. For the people who work for you, trust is about you.

In this redefined pyramid of influence and trust, successful leaders who consistently deliver great results will be those who know how to create and nurture a culture of trust.

Trust building tips:

More information: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation by Nan S. Russell