John West-Burnham

Educational Leadership Development

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In the following diagram trust in leadership is seen as the interaction of three key variables:

  • Credibility: the extent to which a leader has integrity
  • Consistency: authentic behaviour, openness, reliability ‘ Do as I do’
  • Competence: professional ability and expertise

The leader who demonstrates these three factors will be the person who inspires confidence which is the basis of trust in leadership.



Credibility + consistency + competence = confidence = trust

(Derived from a conversation with Howard Mence)

In organizational terms trust is perhaps best exemplified through shared leadership which involves the location of authority at the ´point of delivery´. Personal status becomes shared authority as the school moves from immature control to mature subsidiarity. Subsidiarity might be best understood as federalism or a commonwealth in which the personal autonomy of the individual is voluntarily compromised for the benefits of being part of a greater whole.

The movement from personal power to shared authority is a complex and challenging one and there are many psychological, cultural and historical imperatives that support control. The issue is to move people (whether five or 50) from dependency to interdependency through the process of building trust.




An alternative, but related, approach is found in the emerging theory of wikinomics, in which the key principle is collaboration:

–The new promise of collaboration is that with peer production we will harness human skill, ingenuity, and intelligence more efficiently and effectively than anything we have witnessed previously. Sounds like a tall order. But the collective knowledge, capability, and resources embodied within broad horizontal networks of participants can be mobilized to accomplish much more than on firm acting alone. Whether designing an airplane, assembling a motorcycle, or analyzing the human genome, the ability to integrate the talents of dispersed individuals and organizations is become the defining competency for managers and firms. (Tapscott & Williams (2006) p18)


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