CEO shares the importance of trust in leadership

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    Some people think trusting people is too risky, but not Stephen M.R. Covey.

    “While there is some risk in trust, there is also risk in not trusting people – more risk,” said Stephen M.R. Covey, author of “The Speed of Trust” and CEO and co-founder of CoveyLink Worldwide Co., a leadership consulting firm.

    If people can create a culture of trust in a low-trust world, they will have an advantage, Covey told students and business professionals at the Neeley Author Series Monday evening.

    “When trust goes up, speed goes up and cost goes down,” Covey said. “Trust affects economic results.”

    Covey said people should extend trust generously, but not blindly.

    Before extending trust, people should look at the situation, weigh the risks and examine the credibility – both character and competence – of the person or organization to which they are extending trust, Covey said. After considering those three issues, people can make a judgment about when and to what extent they should trust someone.

    “If you begin with the propensity to trust, you will see better results,” Covey said.

    Covey also debunked the idea that trust is a soft social virtue and said it is instead a hard driving force in both personal and professional success that comes from both character and competence.

    “One of the best ways to build trust is to give it,” he said.

    Covey said when leaders trust people, it is usually reciprocated.

    “We need to create an island of trust in a sea of distrust,” Covey said. “We should shape our environment.”

    James Williams, a senior social work major, said Covey’s presentation helped him think about trust in a different way.

    “I’m going to speak from my heart and say more truthful things,” Williams said.

    Covey earned his MBA at Harvard University, and after joining his father’s company Covey Leadership Center as a client developer, he became the CEO, according to a Neeley School of Buisness press release.

    Under his supervision, Covey Leadership Center merged with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey and became the largest leadership development company in the world. Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust,” was published in 2006. Covey speaks worldwide and teaches individuals and organizations how to leverage trust. Covey served as the strategist who made his father’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” one of the top business books of the 20th century, according to CEO Magazine.

    The Neeley school hosts the Neeley Author Series to introduce students to different concepts about leadership that can help them form their own ideas about it, said Christine Riordan, associate dean for external relations. Covey was the second speaker in the Neeley Author Series.