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Title: The Trustworthy Leader: Leveraging the Power of Trust to Transform Your OrganizationAuthor: Amy LymanPublisher: Jossey-BassPrice: £18.99ISBN: 978-0470596289
As one might expect from a co-founder of the Great Place to Work Institute, this book is packed with detailed case study material drawn from the survey work done within the institute. Written in a very accessible style, the cases describe the behavioural patterns and attitudes of CEOs and other senior managers who have demonstrated that they can maintain a “virtuous circle of trustworthy leadership”. The large database of this Institute provides all the source material and conceptual thinking for the book.
Ms Lyman outlines six distinct elements that make up the virtuous circle: honor (sic); inclusion; ‘value and engage followers’; sharing Information; developing others; and, finally, ‘movement through uncertainty to pursue opportunities’. One chapter is devoted to each of these elements and each includes three in-depth case studies. The cases are helpfully drawn from a wide variety of organisations ranging from medium-sized family businesses to the world famous Google. As such, there is something for everyone in this book. The stories are personal histories with some great quotes and Ms Lyman writes with a passion for her subject area and a firm belief in her research. The stories would make case vignettes for trainers wanting to run sessions in basic leadership training. The elements of the virtuous circle of trust run through the book like a spine and are continually reinforced and repeated.
A North American book in style, Ms Lyman is resolutely upbeat throughout. Herein lies a missed opportunity, and a misalignment with the times. Trust and the repair of trust is a hot topic right now in the workplace, as both the public and private sector address both the consequences of the financial crisis and the public scandals of the last few years. However, when reading this book it is as if the financial crisis never happened, as though we are living in the same working world in which we greeted the millennium. Yet we know that trust between senior leaders and employees has been damaged in many workplaces, and in the public sector continues to be a source of great concern. In this book there is hardly any mention on how individual leaders have managed to either maintain or repair trust through these recent adverse times.
In short, with memories of Robert de Niro’s character in the film Meet the Parents, what do we do when the circle of trust between leaders and their employees is broken? Nasty stuff happens in business and government, and even the best leaders can be challenged. If we can’t find people whose personal experiences exactly mirror those of the leaders described in this book, then rethinking talent management and leadership development is essential – but the book gives little guidance in this respect. So whilst the publication of a book concerned with trustworthy leadership is timely, the way the topic is dealt with in some respects fails to capture the mood of the times in the UK and the complexity of the challenge facing many respected leaders in multiple organisations.
Veronica Hope-Hailey is professor of HRM at Cass Business School, and co-author of the CIPD research report, Where has all the trust gone? (March 2012)