Lately I’ve been concerned about leaders’ engagement in their work – the degree to which they feel motivated and inspired by what they do, and their commitment to doing it well. It’s always been my view that talented leaders thrive when they get to leverage their strengths! A leader’s sense of engagement is the foundation for a rewarding and successful career.
However, the news on engagement lately is grim! I read once that not counting a few cases of high-profile fraud, companies lose more to employee disengagement than they do to theft! Let’s talk about what it would take to help leaders reconnect.
Celebrity speaker and advisor to business leaders worldwide, Stephen M.R. Covey, was gracious enough to speak to me at length about personal leadership. We share a similar philosophy – so much so that he even endorsed The Inner Edge. Read on for his take on personal leadership, trust, and more:
Joelle Jay: What role do you think personal leadership plays in our current business environment? Is it really relevant?
Stephen M.R. Covey: I absolutely think that, in times like we have today, this type of approach is more relevant even than ever before. It always was relevant. The fact that we are in this current environment puts a greater premium on inner work and personal leadership. The essence of leadership is really to inspire trust. Personal leadership requires leaders to also trust themselves.
JJ: What does that mean, to “trust themselves?”
SC: Trust is sustained from the inside out. We need to return to that foundation for us to succeed. Leaders who trust themselves make the decisions that are right for them, based on their values and character. Then they extend that trust to others. The leader goes first.
JJ: How do leaders learn to trust themselves?
SC: We start with ourselves. It takes humility to have integrity. It takes courage to have integrity. We try to be congruent with what we stand for. The sense of power and self-trust that comes from that is extraordinary. That’s why I like your idea of the inner edge. You work inside first.
JJ: Sometimes I worry that people think fulfillment, or engagement, is a “soft skill” of leadership and is therefore dispensable. What do you think?
SC: I am approaching this topic as a business practitioner first. I come from a world of running a business, reporting to a board, and trying to make payroll, so I approach it very practically. But I’ve learned that this inside work and the process of creating trust is not just social issue; it is economic. Trust is a hard edge issue. You can quantify and measure the results of a high trust environment, and an environment in which people are fulfilled and engaged. I have seen the economic impact when people move from low trust to high trust – as individuals and in organizations. The difference is profound.
It’s worthwhile for leaders to consider Stephen’s point. Are you experiencing the economic rewards of a high trust environment? Are your employees fulfilled and engaged? Are you?
Related: 5 Practices for Leading from Within