Five Dimensions of Trustworthy Leadership

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  • 0:00 Trustworthy Leadership
  • 1:05 Integrity
  • 1:50 Competence and Consistency
  • 2:56 Loyalty
  • 3:40 Openness
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Administration.

There is a lot of research and literature on what makes a good leader. In this lesson, we'll discuss the role trust plays in being an effective leader and introduce 5 dimensions that are needed by any trustworthy leader.

Trustworthy Leadership

Chester Barnard, a leader at a company named New Jersey Bell, was famous in the 1930s and 1940s for being able to motivate his employees and run a good company. When asked how he was able to inspire people to follow him, he explained that it wasn't anything he did since he had been in his leadership position but rather the 30 years leading up to his CEO appointment.

No one throughout his career ever distrusted Chester Barnard because he never gave them a reason. Then, when he became the boss, that trustworthiness came with him and employees did what he asked because they knew he was making the best decisions he could. It was Chester Barnard who first wrote about trustworthy leadership.

Since Barnard, other leaders and researchers have refined and defined what makes trustworthy leaders and the five dimensions of trustworthy leadership have emerged:

  1. Integrity
  2. Competence
  3. Consistency
  4. Loyalty
  5. Openness


The dictionary defines integrity as 'the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.' While this is a good definition, integrity can really be summed up as 'how you act when no one is watching.' Integrity absolutely includes honesty and strong moral principles, but it isn't just believing in them; it's acting on them because you require it of yourself and for no other reason.

Integrity is critical for leadership because followers are very wary of some leaders. One of the biggest complaints, in general, about leaders is that they say the right things but do the wrong things. That's not what someone with integrity would do. People who have integrity are transparent, take accountability for their actions, and work hard to help their organization as much as themselves.

Competence and Consistency

Leaders need to be able to show they are competent in a number of areas. They must be competent negotiators, competent communicators and competent in whatever field their business is in. If we talk about the leader of a company that makes TVs, the CEO doesn't need to know how to build a TV or how many pixels are in a screen (there are other people to do that), but it's difficult to get behind a leader who doesn't know their business. So, if they aren't technically competent, then they better make it up with some relationship-building competency.

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