Cognitive vs Affective Trust

Did you know that there are two types of trust?
Both types are extremely important for being a successful leader.

The Two Kinds of Trust You Need:

🧠 Cognitive Trust:
The easiest explanation for this kind of trust is that it is “trust of the head” since it is the dispassionate kind of trust → no feelings, only logic!
It is the belief of your colleagues about your competence and abilities. How confident they are in your technical abilities to carry out your leadership responsibilities.
For example, awards or qualifications increase the level of cognitive confidence.

❤️ Affective Trust:
On the opposite side is “trust of the heart” → emotional trust!
This is the type of interpersonal trust. It is strongly driven by emotions such as empathy, close relationships, and concern. It is the trust that people have in you as a person with good and honorable intentions toward them. The feeling they feel towards you is positive and friendly.
For example, affective trust is needed most at the beginning of a new relationship.

You need both kinds of trust to establish a relationship with your team!

What drives each type of trust?

🧠 Cognitive Trust is driven by others’ belief in your competence:
You build cognitive trust through your actions as a professional. It is your ability to keep your promises, complete your work without mistakes, identify potential problems, show the big picture of your work, and be able to explain how things work “under the hood”. Every time you show your competence – you also build your cognitive confidence!

To invest in this kind of trust, it may be helpful taking steps to upgrade your skills and keep up-to-date with technological innovations, that is, to adopt a continuous learning mindset.

❤️ Affective Trust is driven by emotion and relational factors:
You build emotional trust by connecting with your people on a human level. When you show empathy and genuine feelings of concern and care toward them.
When they have a problem, show them you care, and don’t quote company policies and rules!

Even after-work drinks or simply getting together and communicating outside of work in an informal setting can help to invest in this kind of trust.
Another helpful approach is to be vulnerable in front of them (Use these 4 phrases.)

Show that you are a person like them. 😉

How can each type of trust affect your behavior?

Neither type of trust is better than the other. Neither can replace or compensate for the other. But keep in mind that each person in your team may value the two types of trust differently. If you have ambitious people on your team, expect them to require high levels of cognitive trust to respect you as their leader.

From our work with tech teams, we’ve noticed that most leaders also invest more effort in this type of trust. They invest a lot of effort in having excellent work performance and meeting their targets (Cognitive Trust), at the expense of getting to know the people in their teams and connecting with them on a human level (Affective Trust).

We’ve also met those leaders who invest their efforts in being friends with the people on their teams, supporting them and empathizing with their problems (Affective Trust), at the expense of showing their leadership competence by reminding them of the team goals and the big picture (Cognitive Trust).

⚖️ So the golden mean is to balance both types of trust!

👉 In this TED video on How to build (and rebuild) trust, you will find out what the ingredients are to build trust in people. As well as how to strengthen them if trust is shaken.

PS: Our pill-ers (check out our newsletter!) were the first ones to receive this vitamin – directly in their mailbox! Make sure to subscribe – join the pill-ers! 😊

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