Getting on the Same Page: How Leaders Build Trust Consensus in Teams and Its Consequences
Fulmer, C. Ashley
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Existing organizational research has demonstrated that team members' trust in leaders is positively related to a team's bottom-line outcomes. However, little is known about how collective trust in leaders develops among team members. To address this gap, the present study examines the effects of multiple emergent processes on the extent to which team members exhibit consensus in trust in their leader. In particular, it was proposed that the most important factors for the emergence, and the degree of consensus, of collective trust in leaders should have the same referent target as the collective construct (i.e., the leader) and concern behaviors that involve interactions between the leader and team members. Thus, the leader behavior and interactions variables of showing concern, leading by example, and monitoring were expected to exert stronger influence on the consensus in trust in leaders than leader attributes (ability and integrity) and team factors (open communication and demographic diversity). Further, the degree of consensus in trust in leaders was predicted to have both an independent and interaction effect with the mean level of trust in leaders in influencing team performance and voice behavior. Three waves of survey data were collected from teams with new leadership in a large academic military institution. Data from 719 team members from 105 teams were used to test these predictions by analyzing consensus concurrently and changes in consensus over time. The results generally supported the relative importance of leader showing concern and leading by example on the degree of consensus in trust in leaders in the concurrent model. For changes in consensus, leading by example was particularly important. In addition, while consensus was not independently related to the team performance and voice behaviors, it interacted with the mean level in influencing the outcomes in both the concurrent and change models. Taken together, the findings suggest that some leader behaviors are important for the development of collective trust or consensus in trust in leaders, and further suggest that consensus can act as a boundary condition for the effect of the mean level of trust in leaders on team outcomes. By focusing on the consensus in trust in leaders, this research begins to shed light on how consensus in trust develops among team members with respect to their leader and has implications for understanding trust, leadership, and emergence.