In leaders we trust? - Insights

In leaders we trust?

LeadershipNot according to IPSOS Mori 2017 polling.Ê This poll reveals that the people that we see in a position of ÒleadershipÓ turn out to be those least trusted. Politicians rank the lowest, with only 17% considering that they can be ÒtrustedÓ to tell the truth. Government ministers hardly do any better at 19%. Real estate agents and journalists fare better at 27%, with business leaders and bankers improving at 36% and 38% respectively.

It seems that those who have power to shape and influence our lives are those we trust least. Those we trust most are those who care and educate, with nurses, doctors and teachers topping the lists. Warren Bennis, an American leadership expert observed Òleadership is like beauty; it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see itÓ. That observation is useful as it describes the complexity and intangibility of leadership but also suggests that you recognise it in context.

Leadership exists at all levels and strata of society. The leader of the local sportsÊ team is not the same person as the leader of a large international corporation. Both have different skill sets that are relevant as the leaders within the role that they play. In all contexts and situations, leaders are only leaders when they have followers and followers need to have trust in the leader.

It is when there is an absence of trust or confidence in the leader that followers cease to be followers. They become involved observers, often paying lip service to the role of the leader but not to the individual holding that role.Ê At this point the leader is ineffective and if they cannot command loyalty, trust or confidence, many of the followers will actively work against and undermine the leader, either for their own ends or to protect what they would feel was the good of the organisation. Political infighting within political parties is but one example, many others can be found within all organisations.

In any hospitality business, staff recognise and value a good leader – one who supports and protects them, but also motivates and encourages them for the good of the organisation. Leaders have to earn the trust and confidence of staff through their own behaviour as leaders and not assume such trust automatically comes with the appointment.

Leadership vs management

To be able to ÒmanageÓ an organisation is not the same as being able to lead one. Leadership requires individual traits and characteristics that are not necessarily related to administrative or professional abilities to manage. Having a vision for the organisation, being able to communicate effectively at all levels, having empathy and understanding with staff and what they are being asked to do are all contributing characteristics, but it is those of integrity, confidence, consistency and honesty that are most likely to inspire confidence and trust.

Is also a fear of failure such an inhibiting factor that it deters individuals from wanting to take on leadership roles? Does corporate culture only encourage managers rather than leaders? Corporations are keen to promote the leadership opportunities their organisations provide, but are these about developing leaders or making them more effective managers?

The need to develop the future leaders of the industry is certainly more talked about and arguably more important now in times of disruption and rapid change. There is no one route for leadership development that is going to work for everyone. Understanding what makes leaders and how the all important characteristics and traits need to be developed is the first step. Creating opportunities for individuals to be able to develop those traits and characteristics in leadership positions provides the best learning experiences. These opportunities need to be supported by developing their own knowledge and understanding through self reflection, observing others and being prepared to take on the challenges of leadership and occasionally fail.

Only by developing trust in and with their followers can leaders succeed. Trust is intangible but very real and can only work when leaders have strength and moral purpose and enjoy the confidence of their followers.Ê This is equally true if you are the General Manager of a hotel or a senior politician.

Please have your say on leadership and professional development at via the new 2018 eHotelier survey on Professional Development. Click here:Ê

Also, here is a link to aÊThink Tank on the topic to be held at Hotelympia on the 6th March:Ê

About the author

Professor Peter Jones is the Dean of the eHotelier Academy. With aÊdistinguishedÊcareer in hospitality, education and training, Peter has been involved with national and international projects with clients involved in hospitality education.ÊPeter is a Director of the Edge Hotel School and of Hotel Future, a new education and training initiative in Greater Manchester and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Derby. He was also awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to the hospitality industry.




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