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Who do people trust the most to lead change?

According to latest global research from the 2019 Acumen Edelman’s Trust Barometer, employers are the most trusted to lead change.

The research indicates that this trust in employers is born out of a lack of trust in other institutions. It highlights that employees are increasingly looking to their leaders for guidance in these times of rapid change and disruption.

I’ve spoken before about the power of trust in improving a team’s performance. As a leader, it’s your foremost priority. Without trust, you’ve got nothing. No ‘mana’, no ‘currency’ to lead – and that’s not just with your team members. Trust is critical to build with your customers, your community, or any other stakeholder for that matter.

What was clear to me in the research was that New Zealand employees expect their employers to step up. Whether it’s on matters such as equal pay, discrimination or sustainability, employees are looking to their leaders to have an opinion. With this earned trust comes responsibility. No longer can employers take a backseat and just focus on the ‘business at hand’.

Leaders should sit up and take note of large-scale research data like this, because it offers a clear picture of what’s important to employees right now. It’s a stark reminder that values led leadership and trust are today’s currency for any leader to succeed.

Here are my top take outs from this year’s research:

  • New Zealand employees trust their employer more than other institutions. As trust in Government, NGO’s and media slide, employers are becoming more credible in comparison. This isn’t too surprising, as we all have a more personal relationship with our bosses. This trusted status provides an opportunity for employers to provide education and knowledge that can help employees navigate today’s world. It also means that if you are leading an organisation, be very purposeful about the values you create, espouse and most importantly, lead with.
  • Employees expect their bosses to step up and speak up on social issues. Teams are not only expecting leaders to “do the business”. They’re now responsible for being a driver of positive social change in their local community. Over 75% of those surveyed said that CEO’s have the ability to create positive change in equal pay, prejudice and discrimination, and future proofing the workforce of tomorrow.
  • Adopting shared values is an important aspect of any CEO’s leadership. Now more than ever, CEO’s need to clearly define and live their values. Walking the talk is pivotal if you want to lead your organisation successfully. Leading by your values has been a leadership virtue that I’ve encouraged before in previous blogs.
  • Two-thirds of employees who have been through a transformation at work think their leaders could have done a much better job managing it. This one didn’t surprise me at all. It’s why I dedicated an entire module to leading change in my online leadership course for emerging leaders, The Leader’s Map. I also wrote a blog post a while back that offered some tips from the experts on leading change.

For those wishing to dive into the research themselves, you can download the Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer research presentation.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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