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Leadership Behaviors and Trust in Leaders: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Government

PAQ, Vol. 40 No. 1, (2016)

This study contributes to our knowledge about the effectiveness of different leadership behaviors in building interpersonal trust within public organizations. It employs survey data on U.S. federal employees to investigate the relationship between employee perceptions of transactional and transformational leadership behaviors and employee perceptions of trust in leaders. Findings from OLS multivariate regression analysis indicate that both transactional and transformational leadership behaviors are positively related to employee trust in leaders. On average, transformational leadership behaviors were found to build higher levels of interpersonal trust. Thus, given the fundamental differences between private and public organizations, this study suggests that public sector leaders need to emphasize transformational leadership behaviors to build higher levels of interpersonal trust within their organizations. Since doing so is crucial for motivating employees and thus for increasing organizational performance, in their leadership development programs, public agencies?particularly those managed by transactional leaders?need to invest more in improving the transformational leadership competencies of their executives, managers, and supervisors.

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