Leading in Uncertain Times – Part 5: Trust v Control

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In evaluating whether to opt for a centralised, more controlling leadership culture or a more enlightened, trust-based approach this comparison may be of interest.

Centralisation is the natural tendency of the cautious and risk-averse. It accretes apparent power to the senior leadership in an organisation, whilst denuding the organisation of its true power. In engineering terms power is the rate of doing work – and less useful work is done in organisations with a centralised culture. The ability of mid-ranking and junior leaders to optimise their impact and learn is significantly reduced. Such people lose their courage for the initiative and become dependent on being told what to do, and how to do it. Trust is often replaced by suspicion in this working culture.

Trust is a vital component of an empowered leadership culture. This type of leadership approach is harder to engender but the effort is well worth it. The most proficient organisations in the world sustain high levels of excellence through acquiring the most talented people, training them and nurturing their development. The very best of those organisations run on trust-based leadership. Trust is less costly than control and considerably more fruitful, provided you have good people who are crystal clear what they are trying to achieve and why. My experience of working in this type of organisation is that employees are emotionally healthier and more contented in their work, develop their own leadership skills better, will go the extra mile in a crisis, and tend to remain in the organisation for longer, recycling their experience in support of a stronger bottom line.

In the final part of this series, Part 6, I will address the heightened importance of communication at times of uncertainty.

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