Leaders today face a crisis marked by distrust.

Breaches of trust are aired and shared globally in a few short minutes, damaging relationships at every level.

Amid this growing climate of distrust, community trust in leaders is still in limbo following the global financial crisis.

There are persistent calls for governments, corporations and institutions to demonstrate greater social responsibility, accountability and compassion.

According to Randstad’s research, 81 per cent of employers across the Asia-Pacific say distrust will grow unless organisations make the shift to more transparent business practices.

What staff want

Employees across the Asia-Pacific are demanding greater accountability from their leaders.

They seek more open workplaces based on harnessing skills and collaboration, where relationships drive results and outcomes are rewarded over protocols.

There is just one problem.

Relationships require trust. And trust, as seen in Randstad’s 2011/12 World of Work Report research, is in short supply.

But creating high-trust leadership starts at the top.

Chief executive officers and senior leaders must focus on building credibility for themselves, their brands and their people.

Leaders must be known for their high level of skill, experience and knowledge — yet demonstrate a willingness to keep learning.

They should also develop a reputation for talking straight, delivering on promises and producing results.

Harnessing the transformational power of high-trust leadership takes time.

High-trust leaders listen first, are inclusive in their approach and demonstrate respect for a wide range of views.

Perhaps, most importantly, they routinely extend trust to others.

From this position of strength, a leader can build the credibility of others, becoming a trusted coach and mentor to managers and frontline teams, and in turn, boosting both productivity and morale.

Earning employees’ trust

Yet, the situation in the Asia-Pacific is far from trusting.

A third of employees across the region do not trust their organisation’s leaders, while 80 per cent of human resource and business managers do.

This indicates that trust is higher at the top, where middle managers are likely to be involved in strategic planning and have direct contact with senior leaders.

Interestingly, only 11 per cent of employers rate trust as the most important attribute of a successful leader, indicating the importance of trust may be underestimated when it comes to engaging and retaining talent.

Conversely, high-trust leaders create flatter organisations, distributing information, responsibility and influence across the workforce — thereby building trusted relationships with managers and frontline staff from diverse backgrounds.

Though crucial, creating a high-trust climate goes beyond one-on-one relationships with employees to building credibility around the entire organisation, its people, its brand and its reputation.

Tomorrow: Attracting talent with a trusted brand