By {{Article.AuthorName}} | {{Article.PublicationDate.slice(6, -2) | date:'EEEE, MMMM d, y'}}
{{TotalFavorites}} Favorite{{TotalFavorites>1? 's' : ''}}

Stephen M. R. Covey is a big fan of trust. It’s right there in the titles of both his 2006 bestseller, “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything,” as well as his newest book, “Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others.”

“It undergirds and is foundational to everything we are trying to do,” Covey says. “We’re like fish who discover water last; we’re so immersed in it, we’re not even aware of it until we lose it. Everything hinges on trust and works better with trust, and yet we’re underestimating it by a factor of 10—or maybe by a factor of a hundred. It’s that significant.”

The son of legendary business educator and author Stephen Covey, Stephen M.R. Covey formerly served as president and chief executive officer of the Covey Leadership Center, where he helped develop the strategy that made his father’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” one of the most influential business books in the world before merging the organization with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey. He went on to co-found CoveyLink, a leadership consulting practice that eventually was folded into FranklinCovey, creating the Speed of Trust Practice, which Covey now leads.

In a keynote presentation at ABC Convention 2023 in March, Covey will share his vision for “trust-and-inspire” leadership. Recently, he offered Construction Executive a preview interview.

Q: What will you be talking about at ABC Convention?

A: I’m going to point out how the world has changed all around us in so many different ways—through technology, through the changing workplace, through the changing workforce—and yet our style of leadership has not. Too many of us are still leading in the old model, which is more of a traditional, hierarchical, authoritative, talk-down type of approach. I call it “command and control.” We’ve become more advanced, more sophisticated, more enlightened in our command and control, but our paradigm is still too much coming out of the old model of leadership.

We need to update it with a new way to lead in a new world. I’m calling it “trust and inspire” as opposed to command and control. The premise is that this is a more relevant approach to leadership that works better in our new world today to attract people, to retain them, to engage them, to even inspire them so they want to be with our teams and our companies—and to also be able to collaborate better. You can’t command and control your way to collaboration, but you can through trust and inspire.

Q: Trust has always been a central component of how you write and talk about leadership. Why is that?

A: The first reason is that trust changes everything. I think we don’t fully recognize that, because if we did, we’d be focused on it more. The second reason I got attracted to it was the idea that trust is learnable. It’s not just a byproduct of what happens or not; it’s something we can intentionally and deliberately create in relationships on teams and in organizations if we work at it.

Q: Is this a dynamic that plays out with leadership of individual employees or more at the organizational level?

A: It’s both. Leadership is a choice, not a position. It’s influence. I could be a team member and still be leading. I lead myself, I lead my life, I could lead in relationships and I could lead in my home and my community. So, everyone can be a leader and everyone is a leader, and that paradigm is important.

You know, you manage things and you lead people. In a business like construction, you’re building and producing things. There are schedules and projects, and it’s very thing-intensive, which is good, but we can become so good at managing things that we start to manage people as if they were things. We want to be great at managing things and equally great at leading people. I like to say that people don’t want to be managed, people want to be led. They want to be trusted; they want to be inspired.

Q: What does that mean in practice?

A: The key to becoming a trust-and-inspire leader is to first become a trust-and-inspire person. The idea behind trust and inspire is to model the behavior that I’m seeking. I (as a leader) trust others, meaning I extend trust. But I’m trusting appropriately, in a smart way, always with expectations and always with accountability.

And then, I inspire other people. To inspire comes from the Latin term inspirare—“to breathe life into”—so, I’m trying to ignite the fire that’s within. If my own fire is lit, I feel inspired—it’s easier for a candle to light another candle—but you also inspire people when you connect with them through a sense of genuine caring and belonging. You inspire people when you connect them to purpose, so they can see why their work matters. The purpose of what they’re doing—that inspires. Inspiring others is a learnable skill, and I believe it’s also the new competitive advantage for organizations today. The No. 1 thing that people say they want from their leaders is “a leader who inspires me,” but they’re not getting that enough.

Q: What is one takeaway you would like your ABC audience to leave with?

A: Leaders go first. They’re the first to demonstrate and show respect when there’s a desire for greater respect in the workplace. They’re the first to be open and transparent and even vulnerable if they want to build more transparency and openness and vulnerability in the workplace. They’re the first to listen and understand and show empathy when they want more understanding and listening in the workplace.

And they’re the first to take the risk of saying, “I’m going to lead with trust here.” There’s a risk in trusting, but in a world that’s far more collaborative and interdependent, I think not trusting is the greater risk. When you bring all these people together on a project, are they merely coordinating or truly collaborating? You can coordinate without trust, and that’s not a bad thing, but you’re leaving a lot of value on the table.


 Comments ({{Comments.length}})

  • {{comment.Name}}


    {{comment.DateCreated.slice(6, -2) | date: 'MMM d, y h:mm:ss a'}}

Leave a comment

Required! Not valid email!