Employee trust in leadership wanes in Asia says survey
Trust in leadership, one of the key drivers of employee engagement, is on the decline in Asia, revealed a recent survey by The Forum Corporation. One in five employees and two in five leaders believe that trust in leadership is lower today as compared to the past. These findings were the result of a global Leadership Pulse Survey published by Forum, and released today. The full report and infographic illustrating the findings can be viewed here.
“Employee trust in leadership is more important now than ever before as organisations grapple with mounting competitive, internal and external pressures. But we are seeing a decline in this critical element of the employee-manager relationship. This can be extremely detrimental as lack of trust directly reduces employee engagement and impacts morale and workforce productivity”, says Cynthia Stuckey, Managing Director of Forum in Asia-Pacific.
Conducted with close to 1,000 respondents globally, Forum’s Leadership Pulse Survey aims to illustrate the inherent connection between trust in leadership and employee engagement. It also seeks to investigate how leaders handle mistakes and whether employees are more trusting of leaders who admit to their shortcomings.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word
While leaders in Asia say they admit to (97.2 percent) and apologise (99 percent) for their mistakes, employees do not agree. In fact, five out of 10 employees (50 percent) say that their leaders rarely or never apologise.
The overwhelming fear of looking incompetent or weak in front of employees is cited as the main reason why leaders in Asia do not shoulder up for their mistakes. The majority (67 percent) of leaders believe saying sorry will make them look incompetent, while another 25 percent believe they would look weak in front of their employees.
“The concept of ‘face’ is highly important in Asia and significantly influences leadership style across organisations in this region,” Cynthia explains. “’Losing face’ by demonstrating weakness and incompetence is considered to diminish the stature of the leaders in the eyes of his or her subordinates.”
By not owning up to their mistakes, leaders risk losing their employees’ trust but the study also finds other “bad boss behaviors” that could contribute to this erosion of confidence. These include lying, taking credit for others’ ideas or blaming employees unfairly, gossiping, poor communication and lack of clarity in giving directions.
Walking the talk
There is a strong agreement between leaders and employees around the importance of trust in leadership. Leaders also gave building trust a high priority, with over 96.5 percent considering it of “great” or “very great” importance.
In order to inspire trust, employees ranked “walking the talk” at the top (61 percent), followed by spending time and listening (54 percent) as key activities. Employees also highlighted the value of encouraging employees to offer ideas and feedback, following through on commitments, and providing consistent messages to their teams.
“Trust is a critical component of a successful employee engagement strategy that increases productivity and performance,” adds Cynthia. “Building and strengthening trust in leadership is a multifaceted process that requires leaders to truly understand what their employees expect of them – to act with integrity, to provide coaching, to communicate openly and to build a positive climate.”
Forum conducted their global leadership survey in September. They received 954 responses globally, asking questions around trust, apologising and engagement. Asia results are from respondents across 12 countries including China, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
About The Forum Corp.
Forum is a recognised global leader in linking learning to strategic business objectives. Our learning solutions help organisations effectively execute their business strategies by focusing on their most important asset: their people. We provide clients with practical and research-based advice and comprehensive sales and leadership training programs that mobilise employees, accelerate business-initiative implementation, and improve agility. For more information, visit www.forumasiapacific.com.sg, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect with us on LinkedIn.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.