Guest Blogger Diane Lange: Which Comes First: A Crisis of Trust or a Crisis of Leadership?

The Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT) guest blogger for this week is Diane Lange.

Diane is the president and owner of Proclivity, LLC(

Proclivity, LLC., based in Binghamton, NY is a business leadership consulting firm, dedicated to the principle that “every person and every organization has a natural inclination to be the very best.”

Ms. Lange has over 20 years of experience in organizational development, consulting, addressing quality-of-life issues in the workplace, and assisting in the design and development of change initiatives in organizations.

Ms. Lange is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management Professionals (SHRM) and the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

She is thoroughly committed to developing excellence in others and in their organizations.

Ms. Lange can be reached via email to answer inquiries or to make and appointment at

We here at Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT) admire her work and believe that cross-over from what we specialize in (conflict engagement consulting with small businesses, churches and higher education organizations) with what Ms. Lange and Proclivity, LLC., specializes in, can spur growth, attract new customers and clients and lead to a better, more collaborative future for everyone.

Happy Employees
Listen up bosses; according to a study published by the Harvard Business Review in 2009, a majority of people reported that they trust a stranger more than they trust their boss.  If you’re like me, you had to read that twice. Worse yet, Michelle McQuaid, a world leader in positive psychology conducted a survey of 1000 American executives and found that a staggering 35 percent of Americans are happy at their job while the other 65 percent said they would rather have a better boss than a pay raise. And you thought the almighty dollar ruled.
Given these statistics, it is no wonder that people leave their jobs. As the old adage says, “people leave managers, not organizations” and according to Gallup the number one reason people leave organizations is because of bad managers and leaders. Managers may be bad for a variety of reasons and one of the reasons is failing to establish a trusting relationship with their staff.  Essential work relationships can be marred or destroyed by a leader’s actions that cross boundaries, break rules, or demonstrate arrogant attitudes that reflect a belief that the rules don’t apply to them. Unfortunately, every time we hear news stories that leaders do something illegal, immoral, or unethical it further erodes what little trust we have left.

But the actions that ruin trust don’t need to be as big as all that; they can be as subtle as ‘little white lies’. I worked for a boss who told me and my team an explanation that we all knew to be untrue. Though we liked the boss, once the lie was said we were very disappointed; we felt betrayed, we kept our distance and we thought twice about what information we would share. Once the distrust was established something intangible yet very important was lost – respect. Communication would never be the same and we would never again feel safe.

My example isn’t unique. Forbes reports that 82% of those surveyed didn’t think their bosses tell them truth.  Sadly, now I join that 82%.  And there is more disturbing information. Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2013 – one of the largest surveys of its kind to date – recently released results from 31,000 international participants and reported that only 18% of the respondents trust that business leaders tell the truth.

All of this has an obvious effect on our businesses and organizations; employees are stressed and disengaged and Gallup polls tell us that poorly managed teams are, on average, 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well-managed teams. The negative impact of distrust, poor relationships and poor management in the workplace has ripple effects that go wide and deep. Good leaders understand that positive relationships and trust are not just HR ‘niceties’, but are essentials for improved moral, better team work, fewer sick days, superior performance, decreased turnover and increased profitability.

Many have said this situation points to a crisis in leadership, and if leadership is in crisis then so too are their followers. The truth is that leadership implies followers, and without followers, we are fooling ourselves if we think we’re a leader. If we do have followers, are they staying because they want to be or because they have to be? In some arenas followers are there by choice, but in most organizations, staff has little choice about following a leader unless they vote with their feet and leave the organization in favor of another leader.

But, if our followers stay and are stressed, disengaged, distrustful and miserable how effective is our leadership?  Chris Hitch, Program Director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School deftly summarizes it when he said, “Unfortunately, many senior leaders cannot seem to shake the top-down model of management that adheres to the notion that authority creates trust. In reality, trust creates authority.”
Can a person be a leader if he or she is not trustworthy? Our experiences tell us ‘no’ and so too do the surveys that abound. Anyone can have a leadership title, but that doesn’t make one an effective, trust-worthy leader. Trust is a by-product of one’s actions and behaviors in the relationships they have with those around them, especially with their direct reports. Trust cannot be mandated or bought; it can only be earned one interaction, one word, and one day at a time.

So how does one go about building trust? The answer is simple, but not necessarily easy. Look inside; who do you trust? What do they do? Who don’t you trust? What do they do?

              Probably the people who earn your trust are good communicators who tell the truth, follow through on promises, act with a high degree of integrity, and value positive relationships with whom they live and work. Those who practice these actions will not only be trusted but will also be looked upon as leaders, because people will voluntarily follow them. If one hasn’t built and earned trust, people will never voluntarily follow and that is a crisis in both trust and leadership.
Article Citations
© Proclivity LLC 2013
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Mediator/Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
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