How Leaders Can Trust And Inspire Others: A Conversation With Stephen M.R. Covey – Episode 147

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire


We’re now living in a new world of work, and leaders need to catch up. Today’s guest shares wisdom that helps leaders lead trust and inspire others that goes way beyond engagement. Stephen M.R. Covey is cofounder and CEO of CoveyLink and Global Speed of Trust Practice Leader at FranklinCovey. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Speed of Trust. In his newest and most transformative book, Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others, he enlightens readers on what leadership should look like today with increasing numbers of employee disengagement. He proposes a new way of leading that starts with believing that people are creative, collaborative, and full of potential. With this leadership, they are inspired to become the best version of themselves and produce their best work. Learn all about Stephen’s proposed solution for the future of work that all leaders need to know about.

Listen to the podcast here


How Leaders Can Trust And Inspire Others: A Conversation With Stephen M.R. Covey

How do you create better engagement with your employees at your organization? This episode is for you because we’re going to take it up a notch and talk about how you not only engage them but create an environment where they’re inspired. I’m going to do that with my guest, Stephen M.R. Covey. We’re going to talk about his book, Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. Stephen is certainly an authority in this area. His book, The Speed of Trust, is a New York Times Bestseller.

He’s also the CEO of CoveyLink as well as the CEO of Franklin Covey Global Trust Practice. On top of that, he’s a Harvard MBA and the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which under his stewardship became the largest leadership development company in the world. You’re in the right place to learn about leadership. Let’s get into it.

Stephen, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I had an opportunity to read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn’t wait to have you on this to talk about Trust and Inspire. In this time that we’re in, it’s so relevant.

First of all, thank you. I’m delighted to be on your show. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a new world of working. A new world of working requires a new way of leading. We can’t keep doing the old things, so we got to catch up with our leadership on how work has changed.

Over the last few years, what have you seen as it relates to employees and leadership relationships as it relates to the book?

What’s interesting is I was working on this book for a couple of years, so I started prior to the pandemic. This is where things were going, but the pandemic turbo-charged everything. It accelerated everything. Things were moving in these directions and the nature of the world is clearly changing through technology. The nature of work is changing. It’s more team-based and contextualized around service. It’s interdependent and collaborative.

What really changed was the nature of the workplace. It’s the idea of working from home, working from anywhere, hybrid work, remote work, and intentional flexible work. We’ve been trending in that direction, and the pandemic accelerated it dramatically. The workforce is changing so many generations, as many as by. Also, coming out of the pandemic, the choices and options that people have led to this Great Resignation. As people have reflected and thought about things, they have choices and options. Suddenly, they’re saying, “I want something different or something new.” The world has changed. It accelerated coming out of the pandemic and made the relevancy of this book even greater. It still would have been relevant, but it’s so timely.

It’s interesting you mentioned the Great Resignation. We’ve heard so much about it, especially back in the fourth quarter of 2021 about the number of people that are leaving their jobs. What is interesting is you said you started this a couple of years ago when you were seeing these. I have often said that the only thing new about the Great Resignation as I see it is that people have physically been able to leave their organizations. The Great Resignation, mentally and emotionally, has been going on for decade, where people have left their organizations. They just physically didn’t have the options that they have.

The best definition of disengagement is when people quit but stay. They mentally and emotionally left, but physically, they were there. They did the minimum. The pandemic suddenly added a physical piece to it. You’re exactly right. That’s the new thing about it, but this has been going on. We’re not tapping into people’s greatest passions, creativity, and talents. They suddenly have more choices and options on that, so the physical has caught up with the mental and emotional.

It's a new world of work and a new world of working. A new world of working requires a new way of leading. Click To Tweet

Without question. There’s a quote that I will often use by Eric Hoffer. It says, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” We’re in that space. If you’re not a leader that is a learner and you think that it’s the way it was before, you’re going to be left holding the bag. Your book speaks to that in terms of how things need to change.

There’s too much information, change, and disruption. You can’t know it all. It’s a mindset. Carol Dweck is brilliant. Know-it-alls are irrelevant. It’s a learn-it-all. You got to be learning. That’s why your show is so significant because leaders are learners. We got to learn, be changing, and shifting including how we’re leading.

You talk about trust and inspire. I’d like to focus on the inspire part. The reason being is I found it interesting a few months ago. I was curious about this in terms of what people think is more important. Is it to be engaged or is it to be inspired? What was interesting is there were about 70 people that took the poll. We’re not talking about anything scientific here. What was interesting is that close to 70% of those that responded were CEOs or presidents. The majority of them, 64%, thought that engaging was more valuable than inspiring. It is part of that old mindset maybe of what it means to be inspired versus engaged.

That is probably reflective of the old mindset, but also, I think this. We’ve been working on engagement for the last couple of decades. It’s been the Holy Grail, and it’s a good thing. We still want engagement. To become inspired, you go through engagement, so it’s still on the path. If someone says, “I’m focusing on engagement,” I say, “That’s wonderful. Let’s try to engage our team and our people.” Engagement is a good thing.

There’s another frontier beyond engagement that is an inspiration. That includes engagement. We won’t become inspired without also achieving engagement, but there’s something beyond it. Our paradigms are deeply scripted in engagement being the end-all. Also, maybe we’re limited in how we view what inspired means. That might be reflected in that outcome.

Along those lines, I was going to ask you if you were to define engaged versus inspired, what is the difference for a leader? My guess is when people hear inspired, there is a fluffiness to it. To be inspired somehow doesn’t seem to have that strength behind it. It’s the opposite. If you’re inspired, you’re even more beyond that. I do think there’s some of that mindset out there, but it doesn’t seem as strong as engaged.

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire

Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others

That mindset probably persists in many. You’re right. This is not good or bad. They’re both good. To be inspired is also tapping into something bigger, but to be engaged is extrinsic. It’s the carrot and stick mindset. Motivation is a good and positive thing. You are tapping into that discretionary effort. People are bringing out good things from them, but being inspired adds to it. It adds a sense of connection through caring and belonging, but also a sense of connection around purpose, meaning, and contribution.

You’re like, “My work matters. It makes a difference. I feel connected with what I’m doing. It includes what I achieve by engaging. I’m giving that discretionary effort, but I also feel inspired by it because of how I feel on fire with what we’re doing. It’s the overlap of purpose. I also feel inspired because I feel a sense of belonging on this team. I feel a sense of caring from my leaders. They’re not tapping into me as a human resource, but as a person. I want both. I want to be tapped into my mind, but I also want to connect at a human level and have a sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution. That’s intrinsic. It’s internal. It’s inside of people.

We’re trying to light the fire that’s within. That fire can burn on for years when someone feels inspired versus constantly providing more fodder or more carrots and sticks to try to help move it along the way. I view inspiration as the next frontier of engagement. It’s going to another level. They’re both good things, but one is going beyond. I do think we need to shift the paradigm that this is soft and fluffy.

I would agree. When I hear you talk about belonging, it is so strong. When you feel like you belong to something, you don’t want to leave that. I look at that in terms of how you deal with people not wanting to leave your organization. Pay and other benefits might go a certain amount of it, but when people feel that they belong, they’re less likely to want to go to another place even if the money is better. They’re like, “I love it here. I feel a connection here.” That’s so important.

It does. Do you remember the wonderful book Peter Sandy wrote called The Fifth Discipline? It has that great quote that when people have been part of an extraordinary team, they have that sense of connection, belonging, and identity that flows from it. They often spend the rest of their lives chasing and trying to recreate it and reestablish it because of what it does to them and for them. It is because it’s part of your identity that can be remarkable. That sense of belonging is powerful and strong, and as part of it, what inspires.

Let me also say this about engagement and inspiration. During the pandemic and beyond, there were so many professions that had to work hard. I’m thinking of healthcare professionals, teachers, and many people that were on the front lines that didn’t have certain options because they had to be there physically, risk things, and work hard. In some ways, it would be almost disingenuous to say that they’re not fully engaged even if they are not as mentally creative in everything because they’re giving everything they have, in a sense, to do this.

The best definition of disengagement is when people quit, but stay. They mentally and emotionally left but physically they were there and they did the minimum. Click To Tweet

Someone could be fully engaged and yet completely uninspired. It’s almost like you can’t ask more from them. They’re not inspired. That fire within is not lit. It would be unfair. It’s this idea that people need boundaries in their lives. In their work life, they’re a whole person. You can’t almost ask for more. Someone could be fully engaged, but utterly uninspired. There’s another frontier where you get that caring, belonging, sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution, which can be a game-changer.

You mentioned in the book one of the polls that looked at sixteen different competencies. You talk about that research. Could you go through that? That’s so important when we think about what the employee wants.

This comes from the Zenger Folkman consultancy firm. They do extraordinary work. They’ve probably done more 360 feedback instruments than maybe any firm out there, and they gather this data. They’ve got sixteen competencies or attributes of leadership. They asked the people being led, “If you look at these sixteen attributes of leadership, which one do you want the most from your leader?” The number one attribute that the people wanted from their leaders was a leader who inspires them. It was not number one by a little amount, but it was clearly, in a way, the front runner with not a close second. They wanted a leader that inspires.

Then, they asked, “What are you getting from the leadership of these sixteen competencies?” It was at or near the bottom that they were being inspired by their leaders. It’s what they want the most, and yet, they’re not getting it almost at all. The gap there is enormous. What people want is to be trusted and inspired. The word for inspire comes from the Latin word inspirare, which means to breathe life into. The whole idea of trust and inspire breathes life into people. The old model of command and control or even the enlightened version of command and control sucks life out, so you want to breathe life into it.

Here’s maybe another way of engagement versus inspire. Un-engagement, oftentimes, is I’m getting results through people. I’m engaging them, but people are often seeing it as a means to an end. Inspiration is I’m getting results in a way that grows people. People are an end in and of themselves. I’m not taking down the importance of results. I’m elevating the importance of growing people so that they are an end by themselves apart from the results that they help create and produce. It’s elevating this. We’ve given lip service a lot, but we’ve got to catch up our leadership style to what we want our intent to be.

You mentioned this in the book about the confusion of people thinking that to be inspiring means you have to be charismatic. That’s an important distinction to make.

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire

Trust And Inspire: Someone could be fully engaged and yet completely uninspired.


Yes. Sometimes, we conflate the words charisma and inspiration and think, “If I’m going to be inspiring, I got to be charismatic.” That’s not me. I know some people who are charismatic, but who I would not define as inspiring. I know a few other people who nobody would describe as charismatic, but who are extraordinarily inspiring because of who they are and how they connect, and their compassion and empathy. It’s almost a superpower that they have. It’s how they also connect to purpose, meaning, and contribution. They’re very inspiring.

Charisma and inspiration are not the same. Let’s separate those. The point is inspiring others is a learnable skill for us as leaders. Everyone can inspire. It’s the kind of leadership we need. We want leaders who inspire, are learnable, have skills, and have competency. That’s a paradigm shift. It’s not just for the charismatic. It’s a learnable skill everyone can inspire.

If you were to think of that from a standpoint of anybody can inspire, are there things that you would say as a leader, “These are probably the most important things to work on to create that inspiration.”

Yes. I would say three things or three tips, but there’s more than this. First, become inspired yourself. It’s like the airline metaphor. Put your own mask on first before helping others. Do you want to inspire others? Become inspired yourself. Get your own light burning or your own candle going. When your candle is lit, that can light a lot of other candles. If you’re not lit, it’s hard to light other candles to inspire others. First, find your why. Become inspired yourself so that you could help ignite that in others and light those candles. That’s maybe the first tip I would give. That’s all about finding your why, your sense of purpose, meaning, and contribution to yourself.

The second would be to connect with people. You do that at the relationship level through caring, and at the team level, through belonging. It’s caring and belonging. I’ll give a quick illustration of this with Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo. Long story made short, she used to write letters to the parents of her leadership team. She was thanking them for the gift of their child to her company because of how remarkable their child was.

Those parents loved receiving these letters. She would be like, “Thank you for raising such a fabulous daughter who is so vital to our team and to our organization. How she does these things, I attribute that to you for raising such a remarkable child.” It created this sense of belonging that Indra cares. The parents were thrilled. The leader of the executive was thrilled. It was not done as a technique. It was done by genuinely caring.

If you want to inspire others, become inspired yourself. If your candle is lit, that can light a lot of other candles. Click To Tweet

Indra experienced it herself. When she had gone to India with her mother when her father passed away and she became the CEO of PepsiCo, all these people came to see not Indra, but Indra’s mother. They would praise her mother and Indra is right there. They were saying, “You raised such a remarkable child.” Indra said, “They didn’t say a word to me. They just went up to my mom saying, ‘You are amazing for raising such a remarkable daughter.’” Indra didn’t care that they didn’t compliment her. She was thrilled that they complimented her mother. She thought, “I should do the same thing for the parents of my leaders for the gift of their child to our company.” She did that. It inspired everybody. The second tip is to connect with people through caring and belonging.

The third key tip would be this. Connect people to purpose, meaning, and contribution to why it matters, and significance. The premise is that you can create and embed purpose, meaning, and contribution into almost any role and almost any organization. Finding ways to co-purpose or overlap purpose matters.

If I think of one illustration, it’s Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. I was out there. It’s a great organization. They have great leadership. As for the purpose of their business school, they say it this way, “Our purpose is not to produce leaders who are the best in the world. Our purpose is to produce leaders who are best for the world.” If you’re a professor, staff member, or janitor there and somebody asked, “What are you about?” You’re like, “We are about producing the best for the world leaders.” Talk about connecting to purpose. That inspires.

That’s such a great point in terms of organizations and regardless of where you are in the organization, too. I remember years ago working with a group. One of the people in the group was an accounts receivable individual. She felt she didn’t see the value in what they did in terms of how they contributed yet.

When we talked this through that if they didn’t do what they were doing in terms of accounts receivable or in terms of collecting money to bring back in, this organization could not reach its mission of being a world-class organization. They wouldn’t have the money to do research and development and be able to buy more materials to develop more products. You could see it did change her attitude toward this. She played a role in this company’s success. This happens in healthcare, especially. If you look at housekeeping, they have been such an important component of the success of a healthcare organization from the standpoint of reducing germs and infections.

People get infected by going to the hospital through germs and infections. Think of that critical role of housekeeping. It’s often overlooked. You might think, “I’m just housekeeping.” You should think, “I’m creating wellness. I’m getting rid of diseases. I’m doing all these things.” They have that overlap of the role with the contribution that it makes.

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire

Trust And Inspire: Engagement is getting results through people but people are often seen as a means to an end. Trust is and inspiration is getting results in a way that grows people. People are an end in and of themselves. We’re not taking down the importance of results but elevating the importance of growing people.


It does require a leader that’s able to bring that out in an individual to see that they do play an important role.

They need to be intentional about it. You can’t assume it. What’s interesting is that, still, some of the professions that have the biggest disengagement are in professions that have such a noble purpose. I’ll use teaching as an example. Think of teachers. Talk about where there’s been a great resignation and an exodus of teachers. What they do is they’re developing the minds and the character of students or of our children. The work they do matters, and yet, they’re so beat up and underappreciated. They feel so disrespected and undervalued.

They are in the crosshairs of our society, politics, and everything. It beats out the sense of inspiration. They’re completely engaged but utterly uninspired. Yet, they’re in a profession that is inspiring. Isn’t that ironic? We have to work hard to make the connections, but they need to fill it for their own leaders. Too often, there’s command and control leadership in teaching. If the teachers feel that way, then it’s hard for them to feel trusted and inspired. It’s hard for them to feel that inspiration as they go to do their work.

You go on to talk about the stewardship model and the five components of that. Could you talk about that?

Yes. The stewardship model starts with the mindset. We always start with paradigms and how you see it because it’s see, do, and get. If your paradigm is inaccurate, then you’ll do a different thing and you’ll get a good result. If you have a more complete, more accurate paradigm or mental map of people in leadership, you’ll do different things and you’ll get better outcomes. How do we see people? The first fundamental of belief is that I believe that people have greatness inside of them. My job as a leader is to unleash their potential, not to control them.

Here is another belief about people. I believe that people are whole people, meaning body, heart, mind, and spirit. They bring their whole self to work. They’re not just economic beings. My job as a leader is to inspire, not merely motivate. If they were merely economic beings, motivation is insufficient. They’re human, meaning whole people inspire better. That’s how I view people. People who have great potential are whole people.

Enduring influence is created from the inside out. Click To Tweet

How do I view leadership? I believe that there’s enough for everyone. That’s the abundance mentality. My job as a leader is I elevate caring above competing. Let’s compete in the marketplace, but let’s care and collaborate in the workplace. Scarcity might be a good economic theory, but scarcity is a lousy leadership theory. Abundance is far better.

Here’s another one. I believe that leadership is stewardship. It’s not about your rights. It’s about responsibilities. Stewardship is a job with trust. As a leader, we have a job with trust for those that were in our stewardship that we’re leading. Therefore, I put service above self-interest. Finally, I believe that enduring influence is created from the inside out. My job as a leader is to go first. Somebody needs to go first. Leaders go first. It’s inside out. I go first. I model. That’s collective.

That’s a more complete, accurate, and relevant paradigm or map of people and leadership. The map is not the territory. Too often, we have limited maps. A command and control map is limited. It’s reflected as maybe some people have greatness inside of them. I’ve already labeled everyone else. This is a growth mindset. That’s by Carol Dweck.

It’s how Satya Nadella revitalized Microsoft. They were seen as having had their best days, and he comes in and breathes life into them. He’s a trusted and inspired leader. He models, trusts, and inspires. It all started with the belief in a growth mindset, not just for you as a leader, but for your people and everyone. He would challenge the leaders that said to him, “I got some people on my team that don’t have a growth mindset.” He’d say, “That’s on you. Help them come to see it in themselves.” That’s an act of leadership.

Having that growth mindset to believe in the greatness and potential in everyone helped unleash the capabilities and talents of Microsoft. They’ve been revitalized. They’re winning in the workplace. Their own workforce is a cool place to work. They’re winning in the marketplace. They’re relevant. They collaborate and innovate. Its stock price has gone from $34 million to $275 million approximately under his leadership. That’s by a revitalization through his leadership style starting with that growth mindset that people have greatness inside of them.

I appreciate the last one that you mentioned of you going first. I think of a couple of different things. You mentioned in the book something about Brené Brown around vulnerability. As a leader, there’s an intentional vulnerability that you need to have in terms of being able to say, “I don’t know I was wrong. I’m sorry.” I think of those things as going first. It comes back around and plays into a sense of belonging or psychological safety. If I’m part of this group and I see the leader is able to say, “I don’t have the answer here. I’m sorry. Many of those things that I’m afraid to do as an employee, it makes me feel as though I can do it, too.”

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire

Trust And Inspire: You have to be trustworthy. Trust is earned. But, you also have to be trusting. Trust is given.


It’s you by going first, especially in those hard things. If I say hard things, it’s the soft things that are hard to do by displaying vulnerability. You’re like, “I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s find the answer. That’s why I need you to help me find the answer. That’s why I’ve got even more talented people on my team to have that sense of vulnerability.”

Think of the word intimacy, but spell it as intomesee. I let people see into me. I’m not trying to put on airs or fronts. It’s to be rather than to see. As Brené Brown says, “You might have boundaries. Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability.” If you go first as a leader who is vulnerable, you do model it for others, but you make it safe for them to be real as well. Also, people respond to it. They want authentic leaders. They want vulnerable leaders, the leaders who model and make it safe for them to do the same.

With what you mentioned there about the boundaries is when I bring this up. I would jokingly say that you don’t want that leader that comes in every day saying, “I don’t know where we’re going again. I made another mistake.” That doesn’t inspire us anymore.

You want a leader that also is a model of character and competence. They’re good at their job, but they don’t have to be perfect for all these things. Have boundaries.

We’ve spent so much time on the inspiring part. I do think that the last piece of it wraps us into trust. If I’ve got that leader that does these things, it’s created an environment of trust. You speak about trust in a different way. What I mean by that is that a lot of the leadership is around, “How do I create an environment where people trust me?” That’s not what you’re talking about on trust. I’m hoping you can talk about that. What does it mean?

Here’s one way to think about it. You could have two trustworthy people working together, and yet, there is no trust between them if neither person is willing to extend trust to the other. I’m highlighting that they have trust as the outcome, which is what we want. We want a high-trust team, high-trust culture, and a high-trust relationship. We want to be trusted as a leader.

The only way you can make a man trustworthy is by trusting him. - Henry Stimson Click To Tweet

You have to be trustworthy. Trust is earned, but you also have to be trusting. Trust is given. In that equation of trustworthy times trusting equals trust, the bigger gap in most leadership scenarios is that we’re not trusting enough as leaders. It’s not so much that we have untrustworthy people and we’re untrustworthy. We need to unleash and create trust by extending more trust, giving more trust, and becoming more trusting. That’s why trusting is stewardship.

Trust and inspire are verbs, not nouns. Otherwise, it would be trust and inspiration. It’s trust and inspire. Trust others. Inspire others. Those are verbs. Become more trusting, so you model, trust, and inspire. We need to become more trusting as leaders. We’ve got to give it to get it. When we trust others, they tend to trust us back. When we withhold the trust, they tend to not trust us either.

That hit me because I was thinking, “You talk about command and control. I can be trustworthy in command and control and what I say and do is going to be the same thing. You can trust me.” If I’m in command and control, giving trust to somebody else can be very difficult for me to do.

There is a great illustration that I can be trustworthy without necessarily being trusting because I might be afraid of losing control. I might be afraid, like, “What if it doesn’t work? What if they do it differently?” I’m assuming positive intent that leaders want good outcomes. They care that it matters. They want to make sure we deliver. They’re learning how to do it in a way where you also still have control without being controlling. You do it through the agreement you set up. You do it through the expectations and accountability you set up in an agreement.

When people are working from home, it’s not, “Do your thing.” It’s, “Here are the expectations and accountability about what we’re trusting you to do.” It’s a smart trust, not a blind trust. Low expectations don’t inspire anyone, but high expectations do with accountability built in. We need to become more trusting. In the presence of our model of trust and inspire might be our biggest gap in becoming more trusting as leaders.

Especially as we enter this world of remote work, it is difficult because you don’t see people on a day-to-day basis. You’re like, “Are they doing what they said they’re going to do?” There is a trust level here that needs to be overcome. As I thought of the trust component, I think of things like Pygmalion. What you expect of somebody, you generally get. If you’re going to not do this the right way, I’m probably not going to be disappointed with what my thoughts are because I presented this to you in a way that I don’t believe that you can work from home.

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire

Trust And Inspire: There is a clear Pygmalion effect that people tend to rise to the level of trust given or withheld or go down to the level that they’re not given.


There is a Pygmalion effect. People tend to rise to the level of trust given or withheld or go down to the level that they’re not given. Henry Stimson said the quickest way to make someone trustworthy is to trust them. The quickest way to make them untrustworthy is to not trust them. Tell them that you don’t and they tend to live down to that. That’s especially true with kids in our homes as parents.

I saw one time a father and a son. They were struggling in their relationship. It’s hard for all of us. The son didn’t deliver. The father said, “Why are you behaving this way?” The son said, “That’s the way untrustworthy kids behave.” The father had labeled the kid, “You’re not trustworthy,” and the kid was living down to that label.

It’s the idea of seeing the potential and treating people according to their potential, not just their behavior. They tend to rise up to it. To be trusted is the most inspiring form of human motivation. It brings out the best in people. They want to live up to the trust being given. They want to rise to the occasion. There might be a few that abuse it, but they’re the minority. Don’t let the 5% you can’t trust define the 95% that can.

It’s far better to build our team and culture around the people that can be trusted and let the culture weed out or crowd out the offenders and violators versus penalizing the many because of the few. We need to become more trusting as leaders. That is one of the great opportunities. When you model, trust, and inspire, that’s a different kind of leadership. That’s what’s needed.

There is a quote by Einstein. I’m guessing you’ve heard this as well. It’s that everybody’s a genius, but if you judge a bird based on its ability to climb a tree, it will always think it’s stupid. When that’s not our thing and we’re evaluated on something that’s not normally what we do, a bird can fly into a tree, but not climb it. It doesn’t work. It’s something along those lines.

A similar expression is every child is a genius, but they’re de-geniusized by adults. Buckminster Fuller is the one that said that. We distrust and we show our distrust. It’s amazing. I’ll give you a little quick anecdote I heard. This was from a superintendent of schools. We did a session on trust and inspire with her team. She had an assistant principal of one of her schools that was traditional. He came out of the military as traditional command and control to the nth degree, but his intent was good. He wanted everything to go perfectly and go well.

LFL 147 | Trust And Inspire

Trust And Inspire: When you model, trust, inspire, that’s a different kind of leadership. That’s what’s needed today.


They were going to have this outside group come in. Someone from the custodial staff came to him and said, “We got this group coming in. Do you want to look at the way I’m arranging the chairs to make sure we get it the way you exactly want?” He always was very combative and controlling. He micromanaged everything, but he’d gone to this training.

It was moving. He said, “I trust you. We’d done these events. You know what to do. You know what’s best. I trust however you set it up is going to be the best way to do this.” At that moment, Jose was moved to tears. He never felt this. He said, “I will come through for you.” He went and gave his all, his care, and his concern. He set it up beautifully. This leader began to reflect back. He was like, “This little simple act of extending trust to someone and what it does to them brings out the very best in people.” We all like to be trusted. We all perform better.

I enjoyed this conversation so much. Your book is something every leader should add to their library. It has so much relevance as we navigate the new environment we’re going into. As we part ways here, do you have any recommendations or suggestions you would have for that leader that might be reading and isn’t sure what’s the next step they can take to do this?

I would come back to the point you highlighted. Don’t wait on others. Leaders go first. Someone needs to go first. Be the first to be transparent in a culture of hidden agendas. Be the first to talk straight in a culture where everyone is spinning. Be the first to be respectful in a culture where people don’t feel respected. Be the first to be able to show that vulnerability where people are afraid to be authentic and vulnerable. Be the first to extend trust in a culture where maybe there’s not enough trust extended and given.

Model it. Somebody has to go first. Leaders go first. When you’re a model, you can become a mentor. Now, we need models and mentors. We need to look at the leaders to say, “We’ve got plenty of command and control models. We need trust and inspire models.” You can go first, no matter your role. If you’re a team member and you’re not in a formal leadership position, you still can go first and, in a sense, provide leadership to the entire team through your modeling. We don’t need to wait on anyone. We are empowered. We can go first. Model, trust, and inspire. That’s what we need. Watch what happens. Watch the ripple effect. It can be profound.

Thank you so much for that. I wish you all the best. This book has so much to offer. I’m glad that I had an opportunity to share it with others.

Thank you so much, Patrick. It’s wonderful to be on your show. I love the whole idea of learning from leaders. I hope that our leaders can learn from this idea of trust and inspire leaders. You, our readers, are the kind of leadership that is needed. Thanks so much.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Stephen M.R. Covey and that it has inspired you to pick up his book, Trust and Inspire. There are so many pearls in here. There are so many things to unpack in terms of how we look at inspiration, how we inspire, and what it means around trust. Not only to earn trust but to give trust to others is so important. There are so many valuable lessons here that we, as readers, have an opportunity to build better bridges with those that follow us. Thank you so much for taking the opportunity to read this episode. I challenge you all to continue to rise above your best.


Important Links


About Stephen M.R. Covey

LFL 147 | Trust And InspireStephen M.R. Covey is cofounder and CEO of CoveyLink and of the FranklinCovey Global Trust Practice, and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Speed of Trust. A sought-after and compelling keynote speaker, author, and advisor on trust, leadership, ethics, culture, and collaboration, Covey speaks to audiences around the world. A Harvard MBA, he is the former CEO of Covey Leadership Center, which under his stewardship became the largest leadership development company in the world. Covey resides with his wife and children in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.


Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the LEARNING FROM LEADERS Community today: