Are You Leading with Authenticity and Trust?

How are you showing up at work?

We are living in times of fast change. In a recent blog post, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup accused management practice of being frozen in time for more than 30 years. By 2020, over half the global workforce will be millenials1 and in the Middle East this figure is much higher. Jim Clifton explains “Millennials…place ‘my job’ equally or even ahead of ‘my family’ as their dream. So, because their life is more focused on work, they need to draw more from their work environment. They have their best friends at work — including best friends who are customers. They want meaningful work and to stay with an organization that helps them grow and develop.”2

In order to understand what makes work meaningful to your team members, let’s consider how are values form a major component of what makes anything meaningful to anyone, including you.

Values are the invisible driving force behind your thoughts, actions and reactions. They are your personal horsepower, unconsciously steering you to what is important to you and they evolve over time influenced by personal experience as well as social and cultural change. One can say that Jim Clifton has perhaps identified a values gap between leaders and their employees. Is this gap the reason why employees and customer are disengaging your brand?

Your values act like a compass, determining how you lead in two ways. The first is a filter on your perception. This affects how you perceive the events and people around you and impacts strategies, choices, behaviours, decisions and ultimately organisational performance. Many studies have shown that a leader’s values may be more influential than age, tenure, experience and education in predicting business success in the form of tangible performance. How well do you recognise and understand your own values and how well is your behaviour aligned with your core values?

The second way values influence your leadership style is in the role that they play in strategy formation; affecting your relationships with employees and customers. Michael E. Porter, economist, author and professor at Harvard Business School, identified the importance of the values of senior management as a primary component of competitive strategy3. Your values permeate your employee’s behaviour and ultimately company’s image and brand. Being explicit about your values and that of your team, you can build trust in your build and trust with customers much more quickly. However, your success is directly linked to how genuine your actions are with regards to operating authentically from your values.

An age of increasing distrust?

Trust is the sense that others will act in our best interests and relies heavily on the authenticity of how behaviours are in alignment to values as well as constancy and repetition.

Trust is hard to win and easy to lose. In a recent global survey titled “2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, the state of trust seems to be in crisis. ”Trust in all four institutions—business, government, NGOs, and media—to do what is right declined broadly in 2017, a phenomenon not recorded since Edelman began tracking trust. Two-thirds of countries now fall into “distruster” territory, with trust levels below 50 percent.” They survey goes on to specify, “Further underscoring the trust crisis is the lack of credibility of leadership. Only 37 percent of the general population now say CEOs are credible, and 29 percent say the same about government officials.”4

In terms of the mass population’s trust in institutions, the UAE hovers at 59 percent in the neutral category three places above the majority of countries which fall below the 50 percent threshold for distrusting. Interestingly, only three countries, of the 28 surveyed, score above 60 percent rating to qualify as trusters, these are India (70 percent), Indonesia (67 percent) and China (62 percent).

In the same survey, the top three areas rated by the general population as important to build trust in a company are: Treats employees well (62 percent), Offers high quality of products/services (59 percent), and Listens to customers (58 percent).

These figures do not surprise me. In the first few months of 2017 we have watched as major organisations like United Airlines, Pepsi and Uber screw up publically, their CEOs seemingly detached from any social or cultural values. No wonder trust is in decline.

While your principles and ethics as a leader, transmutes into the shared values of your employees, as reflected in your brand. It is it is the authentic, consistent and repeated delivery of actions and responses that will build trust with your customers.

In Summary

  • Identify your core values and contrast with your board and your brand. Focus on the values that align closely. They are probably the reasons that drove you to accept your role and why you believe in your brand. 
  • Take an honest look at situations where you have not or do not act from that place of integrity, aligned with your values.
  • Make your values explicit and non-negotiable within your organisation and bring them into your customer experience.
  • Ensure your internal procedures and service processes drive consistency and reliability for both employees and customers. Make it a value to keep up your promise.


  1. The Deloitte Millennium Survey 2017, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, UK, 2017
  2. Jim Clifton, The World’s Broken Workplace, June 2017, retrieved from
  3. Scott Lichtenstein, The Role of Values in Leadership: How Leaders’ Values Shape Value Creation, January 2012 retrieved from
  4. Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 Annual Global Study, Edelman Intelligence, USA, 2017