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Project social capital, leadership and trust: A study of human resource information systems development

Carole Tansley (Department of HRM, Nottingham Business School, The Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Sue Newell (Department of Management, Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 8 May 2007



The purpose of this article is to consider how project leadership knowledge and behaviour influence project team trust and social capital development and use in the context of a global HR information systems project.


A comparative interpretive case study approach was used, including interviews (n=45) and participant observation with members at all levels of the two examined projects. Interpretive patterns from situated activities enabled inferences to be drawn about different types of project leader (PL) knowledge and behaviours and trust and the bridging and bonding aspects of social capital.


PLs need to apply knowledge in three areas in order for trust to develop within the project team (external leadership, internal leadership and hybrid leadership), which in turn is a necessary pre‐condition for the development and exploitation of social capital, a significant influence on project success.

Research limitations/implications

The choice of two extreme cases (one where trust did not develop and one where trust did) means that further research is needed to corroborate the findings in order to make generalisations.

Practical implications

The study highlights ways in which a PL can foster the development of trust in the context of complex cross‐cultural, cross‐functional IS project teams. The study identifies how there are different types of trust that need to be generated and how this depends on good internal, external and hybrid PL leadership.


The study highlights the importance of different types of trust for being able to exploit social capital at the project level that has not been studied explicitly in the literature.



Tansley, C. and Newell, S. (2007), "Project social capital, leadership and trust: A study of human resource information systems development", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 350-368.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited