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Trust, but Verify

The Four Key Leadership Styles Which Build – Or Destroy Trust



As managers we have a duty to monitor the results of our employees, but exactly how closely should we supervise them? This key question has resurfaced recently, partly as a result of a study by Karen Levy of Princeton University on workplace surveillance in the trucking industry.


For obvious safety reasons, it is important that truckers do not drive when they are badly fatigued. Since the 1980’s this has led to the use of monitoring systems which have evolved over time from simple mechanical counters of time and distance completed to sophisticated software that uses facial recognition, geolocation and other systems that have the potential to be very intrusive. This can be very irksome to truckers, who are well-known for having a very independent and autonomous approach to their job.


But for other professions also, there are now many employee monitoring software packages on the market. So, it is important for leaders and managers to reflect carefully on how closely to monitor their employees. Many years ago, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States from 1981 to 1989, borrowed a quotation, possibly from Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary: ‘Trust but verify’. He used it in the context of negotiating a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union.


This approach ties in well with Human Synergistics’™ (HS) research over more than 60 years into effective and less effective leadership. The HS leadership model includes four styles that have a strong input into the way a manager or leader either builds or destroys trust in the employees she or he manages. Let’s take the two styles that tend the most to destroy trust, Power and Perfectionism.


The Power Style: Leaders and managers who score high on HS’s Power style have a fundamental belief in the use of controlling behaviors. They tend to dictate what to do to their employees, rather than asking for and listening to their input. The result is frequently that employees perceive that they are being treated as mindless robots and they will rapidly start looking to leave the organization.


The Perfectionistic Style: Leaders and managers who score high on HS’s Perfectionistic style have a fundamental belief that everything must be perfect down to last minute detail. This frequently leads them to delegate poorly or not at all, because they believe only they can get everything right. They micro-manage and end up as ‘workaholics’ because they are doing their own job and also large parts of their employees’ jobs as well. The results are that employees feel both distrusted and underutilized and they too will quickly start to look for employment elsewhere.


The two HS styles that build and maintain trust are Humanistic and Achievement, especially when they are used together.


The Humanistic Style: Managers and leaders who score highly on HS’s Humanistic style share a fundamental belief that people act basically in good faith, even when they make mistakes, and therefore should be trusted. This leads them to exhibit very constructive behaviors, such as strong effective listening skills. This makes them excellent coaches, mentors and developers of the talent within each individual. Their employees are motivated to perform well because they feel a very positive pressure to do well.


The Achievement Style: Managers and leaders who score highly on HS’s Achievement style are focused on achieving excellence rather than perfection. So they are pragmatic realists who expect themselves and others to do their very best with the resources available (time, budget and their other team members). They tend to give their employees objectives to achieve and don’t dictate the actions necessary in order to achieve them. This allows lots of autonomy to those they supervise and their employees respond well to being fully trusted to deliver their best. Finally, these managers and leaders use simple transparent metrics to follow up on their employees’ progress – the ‘verify’ component of ‘Trust but verify’.


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Brownsugar TV
Brownsugar TV
12 de mai. de 2023

It is one thing to trust and another thing to verify what you have. Leaders do not just trust implicitly, they need to verify before they even acknowledge it is right! I trust my team to do the right thing, but i also need to verify that it is right especially if that person is a new staff; it becomes important to do so.

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