TSM Research

Prix, Distinctions & Contrats de recherche





About the ANR project “trust development in Leadership Relationships”
Workshop (Coming soon)
Publications, Conferences & Working Paper
Scientific Committee





Leadership and Trust




In the twenty-first century most people work in hierarchical organizations structured around series’ of supervisor-subordinate relationships. The leadership literature has taken many approaches to study this typical configuration for over fifty years, primarily taking the viewpoint of the supervisor or leader. More recently theorists have returned to the notion that leadership and supervision is at its core a relationship between a subordinate and a supervisor (e.g., Uhl-Bien, 2006) and trust between the two parties has been shown to be a crucial aspect of the quality of the relationship.


Trust has developed as an important topic in the organizational sciences since the mid-1990s. Sociologists and economists have first considered trust as “an important lubricant of a social system” (Arrow, 1974, p. 23) that reduces uncertainty. Theorists agree on trust definition as a willingness to make oneself vulnerable to another person, which is the very essence of supervision and leadership (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995; Rousseau, 1989). Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman (1995) developed the prominent theory of trust in organizations that identifies three precursors to trust: integrity, benevolence, and competence. These trust elements relate to leadership, because, lacking other information, followers can feel comfortable following when the leader has been honest, demonstrated relevant competence, and cared for followers in the past. These elements act as proxies of information because the very nature of trust is that one is made vulnerable when information is asymmetric: the leader has more information than the follower (Moorman & Grover, 2009), and deep trust serves as an heuristic to make decisions in the absence of other information (McEvily, 2011).

Trust violations

Trust violations are part of normal human interactions, because people experience lapses in ability, integrity, and benevolence. Nevertheless , trust recovery research is in its infancy. Theorists have identified characteristics of trust violations that influence the ease of trust recovery, including whether the violation was purposeful, and whether it was due to the situation or the person perpetrating the act, and the degree to which the violation can be remedied (Kim, Dirks, & Cooper, 2009). Research on the trust violation and repair process has produced useful insight into how integrity- and competence-based trust violations affect trust and how trust can be recovered more readily from the latter in short term relationships (Boles et al., 2000; Kim et al., 2013; Kim et al., 2009; Kim et al., 2006; Kim et al., 2004; Schweitzer et al., 2006). In contrast, long term leader-follower relationships are marked by a power differential, emotional intensity, and development over time that impinge on what violates trust and whether it can be recovered. These crucial differences limit the generalizability of previous trust violation and recovery research to leader-follower relationships and suggest the need for rich models of trust violations specific to that type of relationship.