Trust in Leaders Research - The Institute of Leadership & Management

In 2009 The Institute of Leadership & Management undertook research to develop and validate the Index of Leadership Trust (ILT). The ILT provided sophisticated measurements to analyse six core dimensions of trust. The research was repeated during 2010 and 2011, providing a measure of the trajectory of trust in line managers and CEOs over a 3-year period. The data collected enabled us to calculate an overall trust score and a more detailed breakdown of six core dimensions of trust; ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency.

Previously we found that there was a moderate level of trust in organisations but there was scope
for improvement; CEOs were less trusted than direct line managers (although the gap between them was closing towards 2011), and the third sector consistently outperformed the private sector, which outperformed the public sector. In 2009 and 2010 female CEOs were more trusted than male CEOs, a gap that narrowed in 2011.

With trust being a recurring issue that is ever present in the news headlines, The Institute decided to revisit this topic and undertake fresh research to provide useful insights into the current perceptions of the trustworthiness of today’s organisations and their leaders. In this new research, we continued to investigate the original six dimensions of trust and have added ‘accessibility’.


We measured seven dimensions of trust, establishing a trust score out of 100. Our key findings include:

  • Line managers are more trusted than CEOs
  • Levels of trust in line managers have remained stable since 2011
  • Levels of trust in CEOs has decreased since 2011
  • CEOs perform least well in the dimension of trust that focuses on understanding the roles of their employees
  • Female leaders are more trusted than male leaders, both at the level of CEO and the level of line manager
  • CEOs are more trusted in smaller organisations than in larger organisations
  • Line managers are most trusted in the third sector compared to line managers in private and public sectors
  • Public sector employees have the lowest levels of trust in their CEOs
  • Newer employees trust CEOs and line managers more than those who have been in their roles for longer periods of time
  • Younger employees are more trusting than older employees
  • First-time managers are the most trusting of their line managers
  • Senior leadership team members have greater trust in CEOs compared to other levels
  • Respondents in Wales trust their line managers less than respondents in other regions of the UK