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Leadership and trust

Research literature recognises trust as of fundamental cultural importance to organisations. Where change is being addressed K.A. April's[i] view that,

"Where trust is high, change is managed more effectively and, where it is low, communication and cooperation suffer and there is an increased tendency to resort to power" effectively summarises many merger experiences.


Effective leadership therefore includes ensuring trust is built within the organisation. Trust is enhanced in organisations with a strong ethical foundation. All those in leadership positions should therefore adopt, and be seen to adopt, good ethical standards of behaviour. In practical terms, these behaviours will include:

  • Dealing with the public, staff, clients, and board members in a fair and straight forward manner
  • Fostering positive working relationships amongst board members, staff, students and stakeholders
  • Respecting the rights of all individuals
  • Fostering a culture characterised by trust, openness and respect.
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest, including direct and indirect gains which could accrue to the individual as a result of actions or decisions. Examples of potential conflict of interest include:
    • a board member or senior staff making decisions motivated by considerations other than the "best interests of the organisation"
    • a close family member or friend personally contracting with the organization
    • a board member or senior staff assisting a third party in their dealings with the organisation, where such assistance could result in preferential treatment being granted the third party
    • a board member or senior staff receiving gifts or loans from the organisation

Put simply, do the right thing and be seen to do the right thing.

[i]April K.A.Leading through communication, conversation and dialogue. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 1999

This guidance was developed in 2012 and will be reviewed.

Your feedback is important so let us know where you have used it or how it can be improved by contacting Linda McLeod, email: