The Leadership Trust Gap
I’ve learned over the years that my most inspiring executive coaching leadership clients are congruent with how they feel and what they say. They get excited in my office telling me inspiring stories that engage their people. They are honest, humble, optimistic, and forward thinking.
Emotionally intelligent leaders know that creating a workplace culture and climate where emotions are appropriately expressed increases engagement and moves things forward. In order for people to be fully engaged, they need to feel they are following trustworthy leaders who inspire them emotionally.
The Leadership Trust Gap
Two barriers create a trust gap between leaders and their staffs:

1. The financial chasm that results from large pay disparities
2. A disconnect between verbal and nonverbal communication
While there is an inherent desire to identify and bond with one’s leader, people instinctively defend their own interests and exercise caution before committing their careers and livelihoods to anyone.
No one wants to commit to the wrong cause or person, which clearly highlights the importance of leaders’ honesty and authenticity.
Pay Disparities
Pay disparities can throw a massive wrench into the trust equation.
In 1990, the average American worker earned $27,000.
Adjusted for inflation, this figure remains constant two decades later. But CEO compensation in the United States has increased 100 to 400 percent, and surveys show that 90 percent of institutional investors believe most executives are overpaid.
It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to predict that envy leads to divisiveness. Such pay disparities between top leaders and their employees undermine workers’ security and sense of well-being. To make matters worse, the constant threat of downsizing and outsourcing magnify people’s fears.
This explains why employees struggle to see their leaders as invested in a shared outcome. But leaders who recognize trust-gap factors can prepare to deal with these issues by establishing an emotionally solvent, personal connection with their people.
Flailing leaders may need to engage executive coaches to help them work on their “emotional intelligence.” Employees are laboring in a harsh economy, so leaders need to learn and practice empathy, honesty and authenticity.
Nonverbal Communications
The second obstacle to overcome is the disconnect between what a leader says and actually feels.
As a leader, you will experience a “say/feel” gap when your messages are incongruent with your physical expressions. In truth, facial expressions convey your feelings much more accurately than any words you say.
Research about messages estimates that 55 percent of meaning is derived from body language, 38 percent from vocal intonation and only 7 percent from the actual words.
We discern emotional content from others’ facial expressions, with seven universal emotions found across all cultures.
In research done by Paul Eckmann in 2003, there are seven basic facial expressions of emotions:
1. Positive: happiness
2. Neutral: surprise
3. Negative: anger, fear, sadness, disgust and contempt
Studies of CEOs’ facial expressions reveal that honest and robust social smiles trump all others when one wants employees to feel hopeful and buy into goals. The worst possible expressions are dislike, especially when combined with anxiety (fear). Condescending, scared leaders will invariably cut themselves off from others.
The key here is for leaders to acquire knowledge of how congruent their nonverbal facial expressions are with their intended message. Again, working with an executive coach can help.
Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development for enlightened leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching to help trustworthy leaders develop an emotionally intelligent business environment? Enlightened leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to fully engage employees.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Are my emotions and body language congruent?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching for collaborative leaders who are curious about creating sustainable businesses.
Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you create a happy and sustainable company or law firm where everyone is motivated and fully engaged. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.