Trust in Leadership and Team Performance

Trust & Team Performance 1


Trust in Leadership and Team Performance: Evidence from NCAA Basketball

Kurt T. Dirks

Published in: Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 1004-1012 (2000)


Author Note

The funding for data collection was provided by the Carlson School of Management at the

The University of Minnesota and the Department of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at

Urbana-Champaign. I wish to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of several colleagues: Larry

Cummings played an important role in developing the study, and Stuart Bunderson, Brenda Lautsch, and

Sandra Robinson provided comments on the manuscript.

Trust & Team Performance 2


This study empirically examines the relationship between trust, leadership, and team performance with two

objectives. The first objective is to empirically examine an assumption found in several pieces of literature – that a team’s trust in their leader has a significant effect on the team’s performance. The second objective is to

explore a more complex and dynamic relationship between trust and team performance whereby trust in

leadership mediates the relationship between past team performance and future team performance. This

relationship is derived by combining theories of trust with an attributional theory of leadership. Survey and

archival data from a sample of men’s college basketball teams provide support for both hypotheses indicating

that trust in leadership is both a product and determinant of team performance.

Trust & Team Performance 3

In the past three decades, research from several pieces of literature in applied psychology, as well as writings

in the popular press, have implied that a higher level of trust in a leader results in a higher team (or organizational) performance (e.g., Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Fairholm, 1994; Golembie ski & McConkie, 1975;