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5 Main Differences between a Trusted Leader and a Non-Trusted Leader

As human beings we all know how wonderful it feels to be trusted by your leader. Being able to trust your boss and being trusted is always rated in the top things employees want from their leaders (as well as honesty and respect). 

It makes a lot of sense because when we don't have that trust it can be damaging.

A recent study of 5000 employees undertaken by LifeWorks, a wellbeing software platform, found that 20% of employees reported a decline in trust between employees and employers than before the pandemic. This group had the lowest mental health score compared to the average. When employees don't trust their boss, it is detrimental to their mental health.

Over the years, I've interviewed hundreds of employees about what they need from their leaders to trust them. Some tried in vain to stop the tears as they bravely told me what they wanted from their leaders. While others waxed lyrical about their supportive bosses and how much they loved working for them.

There were five main themes that signify a sliding scale between not trusted and trusted.

As you can see in the chart below below, trusted leaders have great character or traits that employees hold in high esteem for themselves. People want a leader they can revere. In particular, their overarching requirement was a leader who "has their back."

And that's one of the main differences between a trusted leader and a non-trusted leader. A trusted leader can be confidently relied upon to do the right thing and make good on their promises. Even when it's difficult. Their team members know they will always do the right thing by them.

Other themes included a leader who could be trusted to push for better levels of performance (rather than being fearful of change and negative). That they take action on concerns and process issues, they are connected and interested in their people. Of great importance, they are also transparent and honest about what's going on.

Trusted-and-Not-Trusted-IF-Frame (1)-1

While it might be easy to list what makes a trusted leader - it isn't always easy to do. Time pressures, personal problems, personality clashes, hybrid working and unrealistic deadlines often contribute to leaders unintentionally acting in ways that create distrust. Toxic workplace cultures where bullying and hierarchical leaders are the norm also make it harder.

This is where poor behaviours become part of the internal fabric of how work gets done (or not done) - character flaws, a preference to stay in a comfort zone, ignoring issues, being disconnected from people and hiding information and feelings.

it doesn't have to be this way.

In my experience, it takes a committed self-aware leader who is willing to do what it takes to create thriving conditions for their team. A leader who is willing to do what is right even when other leaders around them are behaving badly. A leader who is emotionally intelligent, authentic, who believes in themselves and their team and who intentionally works on building trust during all of their interactions.

Being a trusted leader means taking the time to reflect on your behaviours. Feel free to use the image above to reflect on what you need to do to improve your leadership.

If you want to learn more tips on how to do this, grab a copy of my book, Trusted to Thrive: how leaders create connected and accountable teams.


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