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What’s the Most Important Leadership Skill? Trustworthiness

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What’s the Most Important Leadership Skill? Trustworthiness.

Jody R. Salway

When we think of what makes a great leader we think of words like confidence, emotional intelligence, vision, or even charisma. These are all good qualities for a leader to have but the real answer is trustworthiness, more accurately, to be seen by your team as trustworthy.

When your team trusts you it increases commitment to the team’s goal. There will be an increase in: communication, the flow of ideas, creativity and productivity. When your team doesn’t trust you, they won’t give their best effort.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” – Alexander the Great

A search was conducted using Web of Science, Academy of Management, American

Psychological Association, Science Direct, ABI/ INFORM, with the following search words: job performance, transformational leadership, trust in leadership, in-role performance, leader integrity, behavioral integrity, moral integrity, psychological contracts, attitudes towards leadership, supervisor attributes, subordinate attributes, commitment, citizenship, trust, trustworthiness, benevolence dispositional trust, correlation and meta-analysis. All of these search terms were used individually and in multiple combinations.

There are three characteristics of the trustee: ability, integrity, and benevolence, that form a relationship and create the component of trustworthiness. First, ability captures’ the “can-do” element of the trustworthiness by displaying to the team whether the leadership has the skills and abilities required to act. A variable element is the “will-do,” will leadership choose to use those skills for the best interest of the team. Such “can-do” and “will-do” explanation for volitional behavior tend to exert effects independent of one another. (Campbell,1990)

Integrity is a very rational reason to trust leadership when consistently demonstrating a sense of moral character and a sense of fairness to the team. This provides the kind of long-term predictability that can help individuals cope with uncertainty. (Lind,2001) In contrast, benevolence creates an emotional attachment to the leadership, fostering caring and support within the team, which will have a positive effect.

In a study (Colquitt, Scott, LePine 2007) using a meta-analysis of

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