Trust and leadership in the lifelong learning sector
Jameson, Jill and Andrews, Margaret (2008) Trust and leadership in the lifelong learning sector. Project Report. Centre for Excellence in Leadership, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK. (doi:17952-2)
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This research report was funded by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL), Lancaster University, in 2007-08. The research project aimed to collect and analyse data on ‘trust and leadership’ in the lifelong learning sector (LLS). Using the methodology of case study (Yin, 1994; Stake, 1995), the researchers carried out 18 face to face and telephone interviewees with a range of respondents from and/or working with the sector. Interviewee data was supplemented and cross-checked with Ofsted inspection results and data from a small number of on-line survey results.
Trust is a complex concept much explored in previous literature. Research interest in trust has grown during 1980-2008 (Kramer and Tyler, 1996). In these years, flatter, more flexible, equitable organisational structures increasingly challenged fixed hierarchical authoritarian leader-focused models. More emphasis on negotiation and consensus have highlighted the importance of achieving trust in social relations. Aware of its growing importance, we drew from the literature defining trust as the willingness of a person to be vulnerable to the actions of another … based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that action (Mayer, Davis and Schoorman, 1995).
Trust as a psychological state therefore involves confident expectation that others will behave in benevolent rather than detrimental ways. We invest belief in those we trust, despite facing dependency, risk and vulnerability about their actions. Our estimations of ‘trustworthiness’ are based on cognitive, social and affective estimations of the competence, benevolence and integrity of the people we trust. Trust inevitably involves the possibility of betrayal. As a result, trust tends to be slowly built and quickly lost. Trust cannot be ‘bought’ or forced and its beneficial effects are priceless. It is essential for the achievement of excellent leadership situations in which staff feel valued and fulfilled.
The shift from community to commercialism in the sector identified by Collinson and Collinson (2005), was noted by many of our interviewees, who reported that trust in the LLS is increasingly important and ever more fragile. Large-scale government-led initiatives to improve institutional performance in the FE system, notably to deliver its ‘skills-focused’ role, are underway as a result of the FE White Paper (2006), the Leitch Review of Skills (2006) and the government’s response in World Class Skills:
Implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England (2007). Characterised by ‘new managerialist’ cultures, government scrutiny and continuous audit of performance targets, the LLS faces increasingly stressful, target-orientated demands in a continuously changing top-down policy environment. In this challenging situation, high trust collaborative working environments led by excellent leaders are, in our view, essential for survival.
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