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3.5 Trustworthiness Is Becoming Increasingly Important

Notably, leadership trustworthiness is not only rare, but it is also becoming more important. Daniel Yankelovich tracks social trends throughout the United States, and he argues that a new social contract is replacing the old one. Yankelovich asserts that as we transition from an industrial to an information-based economy, the employment relationship is changing dramatically, and that these changes require that organizations be managed and led differently.Yankelovich (2007).

There are hints as to where these changes are all leading. Some note that organizations are evolving into federations and networks, and evolving away from pyramids and hierarchies.Bennis (1999a). When an organization is organized more as a network, then “lateral leadershipOrganizational structure in which an organization is organized more as a network than as a hierarchy.” is more the norm than is vertical leadership.Kuhl, Schnelle, & Tillman (2005). If this assessment is correct, being at the top of the pyramid or hierarchy will be less critical to getting things done in future organizations.

Others note that the millennial generation now outnumbers the baby boom generation in today’s workforce. This new generation of workers, having seen their parents get laid off, outsourced, and downsized, is much less loyal to the organization than previous generations. As Marshal Goldsmith observes, this generation wants you to earn their trust; trust is not given automatically.Goldsmith (2008). Therefore, as millennials increasingly infiltrate our organizations, organizational leadership is going to have to earn their trust in order to be effective, and that trust is not easily earned.

Another trend in organizational life is the growing pervasiveness of virtual teams that are often spread out in a wide variety of time zones and countries. Since work cannot be directly observed or controlled, accountability systems must focus on outcomes and “control” is exerted through trusting partnerships.Henttonen and Blomqvist (2005). In general, the trend for future organizational life is clear: leaders need to rely more on soft power and persuasion than on hard power and control.Nancheria (2009). In sum, trustworthy leadership is not only valuable and rare, but it is also increasingly important.