Do I Trust You to Lead the Way? Exploring Trust and Mistrust in Leader–Follower Relations

Michelle C. Bligh and Jeffrey C. Kohles

Trust men and they will be true to you;treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted.

Lao Tzu

5.1 Introduction

Numerous theorists have called for a reconceptualization of the traditional dichotomies between leaders and followers, managers and employees, supervisors and subordinates (e.g. Baker, 2007; Bligh, 2011; Kelley, 2008; Rost, 2008). In this chapter, we posit that trust is a dynamic yet critical link between these two interrelated organizational roles and processes. Prior research conceptualizes trust as an expectation or belief that one can rely on another person’s actions and words, and that that person has good intentions towards oneself. As Mayer et al. (1995) have noted, trust is most meaningful in situations in which one party is at risk or is vulnerable to another party. It is perhaps surprising then that many leadership studies fail to acknowledge the critical role of trust as the primary conduit or currency through which leaders and followers exchange power and influence. It is hard to imagine an organizational situation fraught with more risk and vulnerability than that between leader and follower, each of whom is vulnerable to deception, subterfuge, and even outright fraud by the other party. In this chapter, we provide a review of theoretical and empirical articles ...

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