The Trusted Executive CEO/Senior Leader Trustworthy Behaviours and Their Role in Promoting Organisational Trustworthiness

  • John Blakey

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business Administration


    The global financial crisis, and subsequent corporate scandals, have undermined trust in organisations (Bass & Bass, 2008; O'Mahony, 2013; Society, 2013). In response to this challenge, CEOs/senior leaders are in a unique position to build organisational trustworthiness due to their leadership authority, media profile and wider influence (Agle, Nagarajan, Sonnenfeld, & Srinivasan, 2006; Hambrick, 2007; Waldman, Javidan, & Varella, 2004; Waldman & Yammarino, 1999; Yukl, 2006). This challenge is further influenced by a shifting context for trustworthiness which has generated greater organisational transparency (Borgia, 2005). Against this backdrop, the objective of this research was to explore the question ‘How do CEOs and senior leaders build organisational trustworthiness?’, particularly in a more transparent environment where it is harder to conceal or obfuscate. It was hypothesised that, consistent with upper echelons theory (Hambrick, 2007), leaders influence organisational trustworthiness through their own behaviours. The research tested this hypothesis and identified the specific behavioural habits that CEOs/senior leaders need to demonstrate to inspire trust in others. The resultant Nine Habits model was used to develop and verify a new measurement scale for CEO/senior leader trustworthy behaviours which has a greater behavioural granularity than current models (Dietz & den Hartog, 2006). The research involved a three-stage, mixed-methods design. The first study involved interviewing twenty CEO/senior leaders on the topics of organisational trustworthiness, governance and trustworthy behaviours. In the second stage, a new Nine Habits scale for CEO/senior leader trustworthy behaviours was developed. A third quantitative study took place, utilising a crosssectional survey, to verify the new measurement scale, as well as to test specific hypotheses in the conceptual model. This research has quantified the critical importance of CEO/senior leader behaviours in building organisational trustworthiness and provided a new measurement scale for assessing those behaviours. The research has also led to the practitioner book, ‘The Trusted Executive’, which was shortlisted for the Chartered Management Institute book of the year
    Date of AwardSept 2018
    Original languageEnglish


    • trust
    • leadership
    • organisational trustworthiness
    • CEO trustworthiness
    • CEO leadership

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