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Stephen Covey: 'Trust and inspire' is the new leadership style

Why trust and inspire leaders do better in a changing world


Despite our changing world and the need for high trust, 90% of leaders are still using a command-and-control style of leadership says Stephen M. R. Covey.

The bestselling author’s new book is Trust and Inspire: How truly great leaders unleash greatness in others, co-authored with David Kasperson, McKinlee Covey, and Gary T Judd. 

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‘Enlightened command-and-control’

Stephen says the type of command-and-control most in use today is what he calls “enlightened command-and-control” – which is incremental behavioural change. It’s like an outdated glasses prescription.


People are our greatest asset – or not?

Take the well-intentioned saying “People are our greatest asset.” Stephen says this reveals we see people as assets, ie. as something to be managed, leveraged, controlled, and used.

“It’s seeing only the part of the person that we need or want rather than the whole person,” he says. 

Future requires trust-and-inspire leadership

Stephen says an innovative and agile culture for the future requires 'Trust and Inspire' leadership.

'Trust and Inspire' leaders see the whole person, and they see leadership as a stewardship.

1.   They model – “who we are”

2.   They trust others – “how we lead”

3.   They inspire others – “connecting to our why”

Explaining the 3 stewardships

1.   'Trust and Inspire' leaders model the behaviour. You 'go first' to build credibility. You are the first to talk straight, to be transparent, to do anything difficult, to live the values. The idea of being authentic (no airs or fronts) and vulnerable (it’s intimacy or more aptly ‘into-me-see’) builds trust.

2.   They are trusting: Find ways that you can become more trusting of others. You must be trusting, not just trustworthy. We are not trusting enough when trusting our people or our teams. This pandemic is a good opportunity to build trust as people work remotely. Don’t tell people you trust them but then hover over them.

3.   They inspire – Effective leaders inspire people because it’s better than motivating them. It’s intrinsic, not extrinsic. The fire is ignited from within. Motivation must be fed constantly whereas inspiration burns on for years.


Actions speak louder than words

Most of us judge ourselves by our intent but others judge us by our behaviour. We need to take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves ‘Is what I intended coming through?’


The power of the right leadership

When we operate from a 'Trust and Inspire' leadership paradigm, people around us are deeply affected by the beliefs and actions of a 'Trust and Inspire' leader.


Fundamental beliefs of a 'Trust and Inspire' leader:

·      People have greatness inside them, so my job as a leader is to unleash the potential, not control them.

·      People are whole people, so my job as a leader is to inspire not to merely motivate.

·      There is enough for everyone. So, my job as a leader is to elevate caring above competing.

·      Leadership is stewardship, so my job as a leader is to put service above self interest.

·      Enduring influence is created from the inside out, so my job so my job as a leader is to go first.


Let’s look closer at the Fundamental Beliefs of a 'Trust and Inspire' leader.

People have greatness – 'Trust and Inspire' leaders actively look for greatness in people. Leaders do all they can to communicate their belief in others. They see the greatness, communicate the greatness, and develop the greatness, they unleash the greatness. It creates an agile culture, as people are inspired as they are treated according to their potential.

People are whole people - 'Trust and Inspire' leaders know people have multiple layers. Body, heart, mind, spirit. When people come to work they bring their whole selves, even when they go into ‘work mode’.

There is enough for everyone. A scarcity mindset leads to ‘what Stephen R Covey called the 5 metastasising emotional cancers: competing, complaining, comparing, containing and criticising.’ 'Trust and Inspire' leaders operate with an abundance mentality. “Rather than compete with each other we complete each other,” he says.

Leadership is stewardship. As we saw earlier, this change of name also changes the role. It creates a genuineness in our lives. It’s about leaving something in better shape. It’s about putting service above self-interest.

Enduring influence is created from the inside out. The ripples always start with us – the leaders, says Stephen. They start from the inside. Go first. Don’t wait on others. Be the first to listen, to be loyal, to hold yourself accountability, to create transparency, to tell the truth, to assume positive intent.


Would I follow me?

How do you evaluate your modelling? Take a minute to think about yourself as a leader. Ask yourself:

·      If I were my leader (as a boss, a teacher, a parent, or guardian, or any other leadership position), would I want to follow me?

·      Would I trust me?

·      Would I be inspired by me?

·      If I were my leader, would I choose me as my leader?

·      When those around me think of someone who is credible and has moral authority, do they think of me?

·      When they think of someone who models humility and courage, do they think of me?

·      When they think of someone who models authenticity and vulnerability, do they think of me?

·      When they think of someone who models empathy and performance, do they think of me?

·      When they think of someone who goes first, do they think of me?

·      Why or why not?

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