The Pillars of Tomorrow’s Leaders: Trust, Resilience and Genuine Connection


How would you measure the level of trust in your leadership?

In an era marked by rapid digital transformation and global uncertainties, trust in leadership is the cornerstone of organisational resilience; empowering teams to navigate challenges and adapt with agility.

As hybrid and remote work models become the norm, fostering genuine leadership trust is paramount to help bridge virtual gaps and ensure sustained collaboration and innovation.

The Cornerstone of Effective Leadership

Trust is the foundation of our relationships and an essential part of effective leadership. Even if we don’t consciously think about it, we are constantly evaluating the people we interact with and adjusting our behaviour accordingly.

We all have a baseline level of trust which underpins our relationships. While the components of trust may be present, without action it amounts to very little. Over time, trust is easily compromised by day-to-day friction and uncertainties.

Amidst the pressure of a complex working environment, very few people are willing to take intentional steps to build trust with their peers. This is where we begin to see a disconnect between leaders and their teams. Without trust-in-action we lose the capacity for effective knowledge sharing, positive group dynamics and a sense of safety when it comes to problem solving, creativity and innovation.


Challenges in the Hybrid Workplace

With an increasingly virtual and hybrid mode of working, key factors that define high trust leadership, such as communication, steadiness and integrity, can start to break down.

Maintaining a culture embedded with high trust leadership becomes a challenge in a dispersed workforce where there is reduced capacity for face-to-face interaction. However, high trust leadership is essential for establishing a sense of belonging and reducing uncertainty.

Two colleagues at the office participate in a digital meeting with the rest of the team, indicating that high trust leadership requires genuine connection

The Interplay of Resilience and Trust

Resilience is the first step towards leadership trustworthiness. When we look at the companies who emerged strongest from the pandemic, they are those that took conscious steps to prioritise and actively measure and build their resilience.

These are the companies that recognised the principle of organisational trust: the wellbeing of an organisation depends on the wellbeing of its people. These are the companies where leadership led by example and positive change flowed from the top down.

The advantages of resilience:

  • Personal and organisational resilience forms the foundation of a successful, high performing organisation;
  • Resilience helps us remain calm and focused under pressure;
  • Resilience aids in maintaining an optimistic outlook during periods of turbulence and helps us to navigate change and bounce forward from setbacks.

Consequently, resilient people perform better at work. A resilient workforce is likely to see lower levels of absenteeism, withdrawal, conflict and disengagement. 

Absenteeism is a significant cost to the Australian economy, with some estimating it is as high as $35 billion per year.  With an absenteeism rate greater than 1.5%, this is likely to have a flow-on effect, resulting in higher rates of stress, burnout, lack of motivation and conflict (ref:  

Yet, resilient workplaces experience lower levels of absenteeism on the whole, therefore helping to reduce this cost.

When there’s a lack of leadership trustworthiness, we tend to hold back at work and don’t feel safe enough to collaborate. We merely coordinate, or at best, quietly go with the flow. Our effort tends to be motivated by a fear of failure, rather than a shared sense of purpose. 

Instead, a resilient workforce thrives with greater creativity and innovation, higher productivity, better engagement, effective communication and shared purpose.

Front cover of the 2022 Global Resilience Report published by Springfox and the Resilience Institute.

Resilient Workforces: The Stats

In fact, Springfox’s global research arm, the Resilience Institute, surveyed close to 24,000 professionals across the globe between 2018 and 2021, revealing key insights about resilient professionals and their work ethic. The 2022 Global Resilience Report found that 95 per cent of those with the highest resilience levels displayed strong focus and engagement, while 91 per cent displayed great capacity for ‘bounce’–that is the ability to recover quickly after change or disruption.

The idea of high trust leadership being the linchpin that brings a team together, symbolised by icons on stacked cubes.

Transformative Power of High-Trust Leadership

Compassionate, high-trust leadership, supports a resilient workforce to achieve growth and build a strong workplace culture that brings out the best in its people. It is trust that transforms a group of people into an innovative, thriving team.

When a relationship is strengthened by trust, it improves connection and communication—which is a hallmark of effective leadership—boosts morale and, importantly, cultivates psychological safety; a key feature of high-performing teams and organisations.

Measuring Trust in Leadership

Leaders can measure levels of trust by asking the following questions:

  1. How frequently do my team members voice new ideas?
  2. Do I reward my team for creativity and thinking outside the box?
  3. Do I have a calm and considered response to change and adversity?
  4. Do I act quickly to repair negative interactions?
  5. Are decisions anchored to organisational purpose?

Action Steps for Leaders to Foster Trust

  1. Adopt a People-First Approach: Recognise and acknowledge the unique challenges that teams may be facing, and the impact these challenges could be having on their performance. When a team or team member appears to be struggling or is behaving outside core values, have a courageous conversation and provide genuine support.
  2. Practice Leadership Steadiness: This will enable you to maintain a confident path forward, even in challenging times. Communication promotes collaboration and productivity, and helps to maintain trust within dispersed teams. Aim to communicate through face-to-face interactions, as this will work to improve relationships and create a sense of cohesion. Importantly, be clear on what it is you want to achieve from the communication to remove uncertainty. 
  3. Model Integrity: Leadership integrity is the foundation of leadership trust, and it starts with transparency. The concept of transparency can be challenging for leaders at first but it's vital to build and maintain trust and loyalty among teams. Transparency and authenticity at a leadership level means staff feel valued, respected and cared for as individuals, which will often result in greater productivity and increased effort.

Illustration of many hands stacked together indicating that high trust leadership requires and supports collaboration.

High Trust Leadership and Resilience—The Future of Sustainable Organisations

When it comes to determining the success and sustainability of an organisation, the power of resilience and leadership is not to be underestimated. High-performing organisations recognise that resilience and high-trust leadership go hand in hand. Rarely can an organisation have one without the other, and sustainable high performance requires both.

In our ever-evolving digital landscape, trust in leadership isn't just a luxury; it's the backbone of sustainable growth and resilience. The shift to virtual and hybrid work models have magnified the importance of communication, steadiness, and integrity, with high-trust leadership standing out as the linchpin for organisational success. 

We've observed how resilient companies prioritise their people's well-being, ensuring they thrive amidst challenges and disruptions. These organisations know that trust fosters a culture of psychological safety, creativity and collaboration. By placing people at the heart of their actions, leaders not only boost morale but also cultivate an environment that encourages innovation and adaptability.

As you reflect on this article, take a moment to consider your own leadership style. Are you fostering a culture of trust and resilience? 

Think about the steps you can take today to build a stronger, more cohesive team for tomorrow.

Keep well.

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