Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Task and Relationship-Oriented Trust in Leaders

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies

Task and Relationship-Oriented Trust in Leaders

Article excerpt

This study examines the relative influence of competence, consistency and motivational intention upon the defined task and relationship dimensions of trust in leaders. A sample of 345 part- and full-time employees provided survey responses regarding their perceptions of their direct supervisors. Results indicate that competence and consistency explain more variance in task than in relationship-oriented trust. Motivational intention explained more variance in relationship than in task-oriented trust. The results, practical implications, limitations and future research opportunities are discussed.


Uncertainly, complexity and change are forces punctuating today's fast-paced global business environment (Ahn, Adamson, & Dornbusch, 2004; Hamel & Prahalad, 1994). Within this environment, the strategic impact of trusting relationships upon competitiveness is increasingly recognized. As Lewicki, McAllister and Bies (1998) state, "the trusting qualities of the relations between parties--through cross-functional teams, temporary groups, strategic alliances, and socially embedded partnerships--are critical for successful collaboration" (p. 438).

Trust has received extensive academic attention over the last four decades, ranging over many intellectual disciplines and levels of analysis (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer, 1998). Its importance is emphasized in a variety of strategic and managerial areas including developing competitive advantage (Barney & Hansen, 1994; Whitener, Brodt, Korsgaard, Audrey, & Werner, 1998), enhancing the effectiveness of strategic implementation (Doney, Cannon, & Mullen, 1998), increasing the success of international strategic alliances (Parkhe, 1998), achieving greater managerial coordination (McAllister, 1995) and assigning more effective work teams (Lawler, 1992).

In this uncertain, complex and changing business environment, leaders play a vital role and the leader's ability to develop trusting relationships has been pinpointed as a key success factor (Bennis, 1999). As organizations cope with significant breeches of trust as occurred with Enron, the role of building a trusting climate is further accentuated and scholars argue it is a central responsibility of the leadership (Gini, 2004).

Multiple studies have focused on outcomes resulting from subordinates' trust in their leaders. These studies support that a worker's trust in a leader leads to important positive outcomes including improved individual and organizational performance (Dwivedi, 1983; Earley, 1986; Rich, 1997), perceived accuracy and fairness in performance evaluation (Fulk, Brief, & Barr, 1985), enhanced cooperation (Lindskold, 1978) and increased employee trust in top management and the CEO (Costigan, Insignga, Kranas, Kureshov, & Ilter, 2004). Other outcomes include increased fairness perceptions (Wech, 2002), reduced perceived psychological contract breech (Robinson, 1996), subordinate satisfaction (Driscoll, 1978; Wech, 2002), organizational citizenship behaviors (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, & Fetter, 1990; MacKenzie, Podsakoff, & Rich, 2001), and the disclosure of important information, the willingness to accept interdependence, and increased receptiveness to influence regarding goals and methods of execution (Zand, 1972).

To date, scholars have focused extensive theoretical and empirical attention upon antecedents to trust (Dirks & Ferrin, 2002). Theory regarding antecedents of interpersonal trust can be broken into three categories. The first, and the main focus of this study, are the cognitive antecedents (e.g. Butler & Cantrell, 1984; Butler, 1991; Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995; McAllister, 1995). These include the trustor's cognitive evaluations of the trustee as antecedents to trust. Relatively recent empirical examinations of cognitive antecedents as significant predictors of trust in leaders include contingent reward and transformational leader behaviors (MacKenzie et al. …

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