Employees value authentic and trustworthy leaders

Thursday, October 17, 2019 - 12:45
AIM Blog - Employees value authentic and trustworthy leaders

Today’s workforce is highly mobile and well-informed, and employee loyalty has to be earned. They expect transparency from their employers, especially if the future of the business or their own position is uncertain.

Without it, concerns can evolve into fears and, eventually, poor employee morale and engagement.

It is hardly surprising, then, that when asked to nominate the most important personal behaviours of a great leader, AIM 2019 Leadership Survey participants listed authenticity (42.12%), trustworthiness (36.38%), and inspiring others (26.22%) as the top three.

Authentic leadership

Authentic leadership is a contemporary approach in which an individual is honest and true to their own style and values. Research shows authentic leadership translates to better business outcomes. If the purpose and culture of the organisation are closely aligned to the values of its leaders, it is likely to attract and inspire employees with similar ideals.

A study by Regent University’s School of Business and Leadership in the United States found authenticity leads to ‘various dimensions of managerial effectiveness, including organisational performance, satisfaction of follower needs, and improvement in the quality of work life.’

Further findings include an enhanced group ability to deal with change and crises and a decrease in negative attitudes and employee behaviours, such as absenteeism, dissatisfaction, and hostility.

Understanding, acknowledging, and operating from their own strengths is an essential component of authentic leadership. A good sense of self-awareness helps leaders truly connect and engage with their teams.


Trust is a core value for any leader, in business and in the wider community.

People trust their employers more than they trust the government and the media, results from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer show. It also found that leaders can increase employee trust in them most effectively by communicating these top-five topics about their organisation:

  • Contributions for the betterment of society
  • Values
  • Vision for the future
  • Mission and purpose
  • Operational decisions, including decisions that may affect jobs

‘Trust is a real no-brainer,’ says Megan Motto, CEO, Governance Institute of Australia. ‘If you say you’re going to do something, you’ve got to do it. And if you can’t do it, or if you’re not doing it for some reason, then you’ve got to tell people why, and be open and honest in your communication.’

Inspirational Leaders

Inspirational Leaders drive their teams to achieve their greatest potential.

A 2017 survey by Harvard Business Review in which employees were asked to list the inspirational qualities and behaviours of their colleagues uncovered four categories:

  • Developing inner resources through stress tolerance and optimism
  • Connecting with others, powered by humility and empathy
  • Setting the tone, through openness and responsibility
  • Leading the team with vision and focus

It may be logically obvious, but the desire for good leadership is the desire to be effectively led, rather than simply not having a manager who is abrasive, unpleasant, or incompetent. For employees, this means having a leader who they actively want to perform well for.

The three traits and skills listed above (authenticity, trustworthiness, and being inspirational) all reinforce this fact. They refer directly to the relationship between managers and their team members, and they ignore the manager’s ability to fulfil their own occupational role entirely.

Being a leader is not just an impressive title, or the biggest office, or a privilege; it’s a complex and difficult role that only rewards those individuals willing to put in the correct effort.

The State of Australian Leadership
AIM Leadership Survey 2019

AIM State of Australian Leadership WhitepaperAt the beginning of 2019, AIM conducted a study on the value and fundamentals of Australian business leadership. The above article is an excerpt from the whitepaper that was published with findings from this study.

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