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:: Trust and Leadership (26-09-2005 21:35)
Trust and Leadership
Anders Bordum 
Center for Market Economics 
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The concept and phenomenon of trust and its relation to leadership has recently come into focus. What role does trust play? Can trust be created strategically? Questions like these are often raised. How we conceive of and conceptualize trust is not as often discussed. Among those conceptualizations of trust available are those understanding trust as normatively value laden and those attempting to understand trust as normatively neutral. In this article I will attempt to challenge the idea that trust as a concept and phenomenon meaningfully can be understood as symmetrical and normatively neutral. One need not continue the phrase “trust is good,” with “control is better,” as e.g., Stalin did. Let us stop with “trust is good,” and look at the implications of this evaluation. It is my conviction that trust is normally something which is normatively desirable, and that trust is a concept which cannot be exempted from a discussion of value judgment. This is perhaps because trust as a phenomenon is good in itself, even before it becomes good for something else. This point of view has consequences for understanding trust as connected to a systematic form of observation which is more or less directly claimed to be normatively neutral.i Such a view on analyzing trust presupposes that trust and mistrust are symmetrical and not so different. Such a point of view makes it possible for the terminology to maintain its normative neutrality (Luhmann 1979). Understanding trust by defining it as a conception characterized by normative neutrality is in thesystem theoretical universe interconnected with the fundamental premise that functionality and functional self-stabilization are more important than validity.The assumption of neutrality is also interconnected with the idea that functionality is normatively neutral and is not in itself attributed value judgments. Mistrust becomes, in principle, as equally good a form of observation as trust – or more explicitly stated, the question of good becomes irrelevant in the systems theoretical universe – all that is relevant is that both observations claim to be able to reduce complexity. It is this viewpoint on value related neutrality and concept related symmetry I wish to subject to a critical evaluation. At the same time I am interested in showing that one can in fact say something about trust and trust production by exposing some of the conditions which lay at the foundation for declaring trust or mistrust. My argument against the understanding of trust as value neutral is divided into five sections wherein I address different aspects of trust as a concept and phenomenon. In the first section, I address the trust concept’s connection with other related concepts, and show the inherent attribution of value within the concept. In the following section, I show the complexity which arises in and with that trust both can be a precondition for and a product of social processes. The creation of trust can be both the intentionally intended and functionally unintended; for example, trust can be something that is desirable, but can arise without anyone having planned it. In the third section, I argue that there is a difference between having trust in a phenomenon and having trust in one’s knowledge of the same phenomenon. The fourth section addresses the question in relation to the trust phenomena’s strategic flexibility of form for example, the idea that one with leadership tools can consciously bring forth trust. In the conclusion, the question about trust communication is addressed. In this section I argue that trust is positively value-laden, becausesincerity is a functional and pragmatic condition for successful communication which is oriented towards understanding.
Anders Bordum