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Trust and Inspire

How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others



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About The Book

From the bestselling author of The Speed of Trust, a revolutionary new way to lead, deemed “the defining leadership book in the 21st century” (Admiral William McRaven, author of Make Your Bed) that “every parent, teacher, and leader needs” (Esther Wojcicki, author of How to Raise Successful People).

We have a leadership crisis today, where even though our world has changed drastically, our leadership style has not. Most organizations, teams, schools, and families today still operate from a model of “command and control,” focusing on hierarchies and compliance from people. But because of the changing nature of the world, the workforce, work itself, and the choices we have for where and how to work and live, this way of leading is drastically outdated.

Stephen M.R. Covey has made it his life’s work to understand trust in leadership and organizations. In his newest and most transformative book, Trust and Inspire, he offers a simple yet bold solution: to shift from this “command and control” model to a leadership style of “trust and inspire.” People don’t want to be managed; they want to be led. Trust and Inspire is a new way of leading that starts with the belief that people are creative, collaborative, and full of potential. People with this kind of leader are inspired to become the best version of themselves and to produce their best work. In this “beautifully written page-turner” (Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor), Covey offers the solution to the future of work: where a dispersed workforce will be the norm, necessitating trust and collaboration across time zones, cultures, personalities, generations, and technology.

Trust and Inspire calls for a radical shift in the way we lead in the 21st century, and Covey shows us how.


Chapter 1: The World Has Changed, Our Style of Leadership Has Not CHAPTER 1 The World Has Changed, Our Style of Leadership Has Not
In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event these historians will see is not technology, not internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time—literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.


I was fortunate to share the stage at public seminars with my late father, where he began almost every session by posing two simple but provocative questions to the audiences:

“By a raise of hands, how many of you believe that the vast majority of the workforce in your organization possess far more talent, creativity, ingenuity, intelligence, and ability than their present jobs require or even allow them to contribute?”

Invariably, almost every hand in the room went up.

Then he asked, “And how many of you believe that the vast majority of the workforce in your organization are under immense and growing pressure to produce substantially more for less?”

Again, almost every hand in the room went up.

Just think about it: in city after city throughout the world, there was nearly universal agreement that the vast majority of the people in most organizations face enormous and growing expectations to produce substantially more for less in an increasingly complex world. Yet they are simply not able, or even allowed, to use a significant portion of their talents and abilities to do so.

Let that settle in for a moment.

The difference between what we are doing and what we’re capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.


In order to bridge this gap, we can’t continue to “manage” people in the same way we have in the past. It’s time to change, for leadership to catch up with how we’ve changed. In a world characterized by profound disruption, we can’t continue to rely on a management style that has become dated and ineffective. Both the type of work being done (service and knowledge work in a collaborative, team-based way) and where it’s done (whether on-site, hybrid, or virtual, working from home or anywhere), we need a new way of leading. Where the workforce is more diverse than ever before, and multiple generations have radically different expectations, we need a new way of leading. Where choices and options have grown exponentially into near-infinite choice, we need a new way of leading relevant for our times.

With unprecedented choices and constant change, people are unlikely to be moved by, or ultimately even tolerate, leadership that doesn’t match today’s world. And yet the vast majority continue to lead, to parent, to teach, to coach with the same Command & Control style that brought us through the industrial age.

The world has changed. Our style of leadership has not.

As I work with people and leaders from around the world, I often hear expressions of frustration and concern related to the need to adapt:

My boss is constantly looking over my shoulder and second-guessing my decisions. Our company talks a lot about building a positive team culture—but I don’t see it. Why did they hire me if they don’t trust me?

I’m a manager at a company where I know several of my direct reports are also freelancing on the side. They say they like the autonomy and extra income of the gig economy but need the security of a salaried job. I feel like I’m not getting their best effort. How do I win their hearts and minds when I can’t pay them any more than I already am?

Working from home has been great in a lot of ways, but it also makes me feel less connected to my colleagues. I don’t feel like I reach the same level of creativity when I’m working alone—and it’s not nearly as energizing. How do I bridge the gap?

My company talks a lot about the importance of diversity and inclusion, but beyond talking points, I’m wondering if they mean what they say? And how to be involved in these types of changes I’d like to see?

How can I be an effective boss and keep my people? It seems like these new generations don’t mind leaving a company at the drop of a hat.

I like my job, but honestly, I don’t feel like my work matters. It’s hard to find meaning when the work you do doesn’t feel significant. And if it doesn’t feel important to me as a manager, how much less important must it feel to my employees?

Working from home has been nice for my team, but it has also made accountability a lot more difficult. How do I balance holding others accountable without looking like I don’t trust them or that I’m just micromanaging them from a distance?

I lead a global team and struggle with cultural differences. The truth is, I have never left my own country. How can I lead and inspire people from different cultures when I lack experience?

I’m so frustrated by the state of politics and lack of civility in my country, and I’m convinced it’s seeping into our work culture as well. How can I bring about change or make a difference when I don’t know who or what to trust?

I’m worried about raising my kids in this modern age. It feels like they grow up so much faster now than when I was a kid. How can I teach them to navigate our new world today when I don’t have all of the answers myself?

These statements reflect real concerns people have about the challenges we face today, that we’ll attempt to answer and help navigate in the book. What would you add to the list?

The question is not whether we are able to change but whether we are changing fast enough.


These mega changes we are experiencing are a result of what I call the “Five Emerging Forces.” These forces of change are sweeping through our world and impacting our work and our lives in unprecedented ways. We might try to avoid or ignore them, but they will not ignore us.
The Five Emerging Forces 1. The Nature of the World Has Changed
Technological innovations are bringing about extraordinary changes; not only is the amount of change unprecedented, but so is the pace or rate of it. In addition, the type of change—characterized by disruptive technologies—is impacting every society, industry, organization, and person. These technological innovations are happening in all areas, including the biosciences, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, automation, virtual and augmented reality, digitization, nanotechnology, the internet of things, 3-D printing—the list goes on and on. These changes are converging and blending in what is being called “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

On top of this rapid technological disruption, never before in history has so much knowledge and information been available. Scott Sorokin in CIO magazine notes that up until 1900, experts estimated that human knowledge doubled with every century. In 1982, it was estimated that knowledge doubled every thirteen months. Now, forty years later, experts suggest that human knowledge doubles every twelve hours. This explosion of knowledge has changed the way we view the past and made us think differently about the future. It has made it impossible to be what Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford calls a “know-it-all,” as there is simply too much knowledge and technology to be ingested. Instead, a premium is being placed on becoming a “learn-it-all”—being able to learn, and even relearn, faster than ever before.

This overflow of knowledge combined with significant disruption—whether through technology or through a global pandemic—has led to major societal changes and brought some industries and companies to their knees. Technological innovation has created new business models and even entire new industries, and opened the doors for nearly limitless possibilities. The accessibility of smartphones alone has significantly changed the way we not only do business but how we live our everyday lives. We do not live in a stagnant world; rather, it is erupting with risks and opportunities to which we must constantly adapt—as human beings, as businesses, as families, and as communities.
2. The Nature of Work Has Changed
The what of work today has become increasingly knowledge- and service-based, with access to instant and simultaneous information. It is far more collaborative, innovative, and creative than ever before. Traditional manual or industrial-age work, while still important, represents less and less of the work being done as we’ve definitively shifted into a new era.

Increasingly, people are being asked to focus on work that requires more of their minds and less of their hands, while those who work with their hands are being asked to augment their work with their minds. As the nature of the world continues to change through technological innovations, this reality will only become more and more relevant.

Most significantly, the way the work is being done is increasingly collaborative, requiring people to work in flexible, interdependent teams—to create and innovate together.
3. The Nature of the Workplace Has Changed
In addition to changes in what kind of work we do, there are also major shifts happening related to where we work. Working from home or working from anywhere had been growing, even before the disruption of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which tremendously accelerated this trend. Today, it’s fast becoming the norm, particularly in some form of blended or hybrid combination with on-site work—a truly dispersed workplace.

While working in flexible, interconnected teams, most have some element of operating virtually; in fact, many are entirely virtual. Team members, whether globally dispersed or working in proximity, may work on the same project and never meet physically face-to-face. The idea of a shared physical workplace is nonexistent for some organizations and becoming less relevant for others. The traditional hierarchal organizational structure is becoming flatter in order to push decision making down and increase speed and flexibility.

The net effect is that people are taking their work around the globe, free of the constraints of a conventional office. These new ways and places of working have led to, and will continue to lead to, changes in organizational structures and systems and will have a significant impact on workplace culture.
4. The Nature of the Workforce Has Changed
Our workforce is far more diverse than it has ever been before, filled with people from different generations, genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions, cultures, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. The goal is to create an inclusive culture for all that enables us to maximize our diversity—our differences—as our greatest strength. The greater the contrast in our differences, the greater the potential for creativity and innovation.

One example of the changing workforce is the multiple generations working alongside each other, as many as five different ones. As younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, populate a larger percentage of the workforce, they bring with them different experiences, perspectives, and ideas. They have different expectations of their work and of their bosses than the older generations. The social contract has changed. What people want has changed. A paycheck is not enough. It matters to people how they are led, and they want to know that their contribution really matters. This inherently changes the way not only that the workforce operates, but also the way our societies and families operate.
5. The Nature of Choice Has Changed
The advances in technology have taken us from multiple choice to infinite choice, as consumers and as team members and leaders. For consumers, there are literally thousands of options available at the click of a button when it comes to TV shows, movies, games, clothing, tools, food, and everything else. Access to literally anything from anywhere in the world has never been greater.

But perhaps the most impactful choices and options have exploded in job and working opportunities. Because of the rise of virtual work, people have far greater options to work with a company in a location other than where they live. The remarkable growth of freelancing and the gig economy has given people more flexibility and options. Based on growth trends, some experts predict that there will be more freelancers than traditional jobholders by 2023.

With this flexibility and increased choice, it’s important for leaders and organizations to create the kind of culture that attracts, retains, and inspires people. Never have people had anything close to the same ability to choose what their life will be than they do now.

To illustrate, I recently spoke with a sales professional who said that during the pandemic, she decided that from now on she was going to live where she wanted to live. She also decided that she simply wasn’t going to take a job that required her to travel frequently. As a consistently high-performing sales producer, she realized she no longer had to. She saw in this new way of working that she had an unprecedented number of choices and options to do whatever she wanted, with whomever she wanted, wherever she wanted. She could choose to work with an increasing number of companies that valued her. Going forward, she said, she’d choose the firm where she felt most believed in, trusted, inspired, and valued.

These Five Emerging Forces are at work in our world regardless of whether we see them or are even aware of them. These forces of change are swirling around our jobs, our schools, our families, and our communities. In order to thrive, let alone survive, in this whirlwind of change, we organizationally and as leaders need to adapt as fast as things are changing around us. If we fail to adapt, we will likely not be able to deliver on the two epic imperatives of our time—the most essential and critical needs of every organization in this new environment.
The Epic Imperatives of Our Time
All organizations today have two epic imperatives to achieve. First is the ability to create a high-trust culture that can attract, retain, engage, and inspire the best people—and thus win the ongoing war for talent. In other words, win in the workplace. Second is the ability to collaborate and innovate successfully enough to stay highly relevant in a changing, disruptive world. In other words, win in the marketplace. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella succinctly put it, “Our industry respects innovation, not tradition.”

The bottom line is that if we cannot deliver on these two epic imperatives, we won’t be able to sustain success in our new world.

Today we have cell phones in our hands that are more powerful than the original computers that helped astronauts get to the moon. How ironic, then, that in practical application, we still manage and motivate people by applying the same “carrot-and-stick” tactics and techniques that were cutting edge before computers of any kind even existed!

Management thinker Gary Hamel pointed out that most of the essential tools and techniques of modern management were invented by people born in the nineteenth century, not long after the end of the American Civil War. If you put a 1960s-era CEO in a time machine and transported them to today, Hamel said, that CEO “would find a great many of today’s management rituals little changed from those that governed corporate life a generation or two ago.”

The world has changed—but our style of leadership has not.

The Five Emerging Forces show that we need to change the way we lead if we hope to stay relevant. Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce, described the future as “a work anywhere, live anywhere environment,” remarking how “we’re in the future” already. This is true for those working within organizations, but also freelance or on their own. People can work remotely and live nomadically. This new way of working and living requires a new way of leading. To succeed in the war for talent, we must stay current, remain relevant, and become intentionally flexible—not just with technology, but especially with the shifting needs and expectations of our people.

The need to adopt a new way of leading has never been more important or relevant than today if we want to be effective bosses, good parents, and productive citizens. What has worked in the past simply won’t work anymore. In order to influence those around us, we need to better understand the changing world in which we operate. We can successfully lead in today’s world only if we reject the Command & Control style of yesterday’s leadership and instead adopt a new style that’s far more relevant and suited for our times—Trust & Inspire.

Trust & Inspire is about seeing, communicating, developing, and unleashing the potential for greatness within people—tapping into what’s inside. It’s intrinsic; it’s already there. Our job is to bring it out, to ignite the fire within, and to create an environment where that’s possible and welcome.

People want this kind of leadership, and they want it now. A recent Young Presidents Organization (YPO) Global Pulse study concluded that “forward-thinking business leaders are moving away from traditional, Command & Control style of leadership toward a new, people-centered approach.” That people-centered approach is Trust & Inspire. It’s what is needed to lead today. It’s what is needed to advance organizations and society as a whole. It’s what enables us to build teams, collaborate, and innovate. And it’s what attracts and engages today’s top talent.
The Impact of a Trust & Inspire Leader
Not that long ago, the tech giant Microsoft wasn’t as imposing as it once was. In fact, it was beginning to fade. Innovation had all but ceased. Its culture was on the rocks. It was losing relevance in the marketplace as well as in the workplace.

In Vanity Fair, reporter and author Bethany McLean summed up Microsoft’s situation at the time: “There’s a sense in the world outside Redmond, Washington, that Microsoft’s best days are behind it, that the sprawling colossus, which employs more than 100,000 people, doesn’t know what it is, or even what it wants to be.”


Then along came India-born Satya Nadella, who succeeded Steve Ballmer to become Microsoft’s CEO in 2014. No one envied what Nadella faced. In fact, in a Fast Company article, Harry McCracken put it bluntly: “The Microsoft that Nadella inherited was regarded by both Wall Street and Silicon Valley as fading toward irrelevance”—which the market bore out, too. In 2014, Apple and Google were both flourishing to record valuations while Microsoft’s stock price had plummeted, then languished to a standstill. The entire industry had moved from Microsoft’s forte of desktop computers to smartphones, quickly leaving Microsoft behind as the market share of Windows on smartphones fell to less than 4 percent. Moreover, top talent was leaving. It was no longer perceived as a cool place to work. Any way you looked at it, the situation was bleak.

A foundational problem was Microsoft’s culture. A cartoonist at the time depicted the company’s organizational chart as a pyramid-shaped hierarchy; a hand stuck out of each spot on the pyramid, pointing a gun directly at one of the others. The implication was clear: this was war. Word throughout the industry maintained that the only way to “win” at Microsoft at the time was to take out those ahead of you.

Nadella immediately assessed what was going on and how it was affecting Microsoft’s sustainability. In his memoir, Hit Refresh, Nadella described the era of warring gangs by saying, “Innovation was being replaced by bureaucracy. Teamwork was being replaced by internal politics. We were falling behind.”

Changing Microsoft’s culture was Nadella’s number one goal as CEO. Why? Because as a Trust & Inspire leader, he understood the first epic imperative of our time: to succeed, you must win in the workplace by attracting, retaining, engaging, and inspiring the best people.

Nadella came in quietly and thoughtfully, with little to no swagger or hubris, and right away modeled a Trust & Inspire leadership style that ultimately transformed the company culture. He began by modeling the behavior he was seeking—humility, empathy, authenticity, personal growth, creativity, collaboration. His leadership paradigm was one of trusting and inspiring others—manifest by adopting a “growth mindset,” not only for himself but also for others, unleashing them to become the driving force of Microsoft’s success. He successfully revitalized the company’s cutthroat culture, completely changing the trajectory of Microsoft.

The result? Nadella has inspired the care and admiration of the people he serves. An employee survey showed a 92 percent CEO approval. For a company of more than a hundred thousand employees, that’s remarkable.

Above all, Microsoft again became perceived as a relevant and exciting place to work.

It didn’t stop there. Nadella squarely took on the second epic imperative of our time, the need to collaborate and innovate in order to win in the marketplace. He reviewed Microsoft’s mission and strategy and revamped them to enable greater teaming and collaboration and to enrich the organization. He inspired people to aim for more and trusted them to do what it took to achieve that goal. They began to collaborate internally, and they began to innovate again in new technologies and new markets.

The results speak for themselves: when Nadella became CEO, Microsoft’s market value was around $300 billion. It now exceeds $2 trillion, the second company in history to pull off that high a valuation. It was a turnaround few would have believed possible.

Considered a has-been story just a few years ago, Microsoft became the world’s cloud powerhouse. It was nothing short of a grand reinvention. And at its roots that was fundamentally due to the inspiring leadership style of their new leader—a style that unleashed people’s potential and that enabled everything else.

Being a leader is a privilege you have. Your job is about being able to help people realize their best potential. That’s what, in fact, is expected of you.


A teacher recently told me the contrasting experience of two principals she had worked for in back-to-back years. The first principal operated with a style we might call “benevolent” Command & Control. He was competent, nice, and respectful—but he didn’t trust his teachers. He often threw them under the bus when it came to situations with parents. He told them one thing to their face and then did the opposite once they were gone.

Needless to say, the culture among the teachers and staff was draining and joyless, and the turnover rate at the school soared. Many teachers even left during the middle of the school year despite not having a new job to go to.

The next year the school got a new principal. She was a Trust & Inspire leader, believing in and trusting teachers from day one and recognizing the hard work they did. She connected with teachers, staff, and students and cared about the work and them. She was open and transparent, and connected them all to the larger purpose of the power of education.

Even though nothing else in the school changed—the copier still broke almost every day and the budget was tighter than ever—the change in the experience among the teachers, staff, and even students and parents was enormous. People felt energized and excited. They started to collaborate and innovate, and they came up with terrific programs for the school to implement. The turnover rate dropped dramatically. People wanted to stay because they felt trusted by the leader, and how she modeled building relationships of trust began to ripple through the school.

This leader rekindled the fire that inspired teachers to teach in the first place. And the students learned more and better than before as evidenced by their engagement in class and historic highs in their testing results.
Command & Control versus Trust & Inspire
Perhaps the best way to understand why and how Trust & Inspire leadership is more relevant and apt for our day is to see how it contrasts to the style of Command & Control, even its more sophisticated version of Enlightened Command & Control.

Command & Control leaders operate under a paradigm of position and power. Trust & Inspire leaders operate under a paradigm of people and potential. It might be easier to see in parenting, where Command & Control parents are the ultimate micromanagers—afraid to let go and give up control, always looking over their child’s shoulder. Trust & Inspire parents are the ultimate leaders—trusting and supporting their children as those children take chances. The same goes for organizations. For many Command & Control leaders, the biggest challenge is simply being able to let go.

Command & Control leaders may get compliance, but typically not much more. While compliance is necessary, it’s woefully insufficient.

Trust & Inspire, on the other hand, is about garnering heartfelt commitment that’s freely and enthusiastically given. Commitment is worlds apart from compliance, and it leads to a much higher level of engagement, innovation, and inspiration while creating far greater outcomes.

Command & Control is transactional—get the deal, finish the job, stop an undesirable behavior, and do it fast. That’s the notion of efficiency shining through. Trust & Inspire is transformational—it focuses on building relationships; on developing capabilities; on enabling, empowering, and growing people. And the irony is that not only is this the far more enduring approach, it’s actually the more efficient way to get things done as well. Remember this: with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.

Over the years, I have been compiling a growing list of contrasts between these two overarching leadership styles. I’d like to highlight here a few of the comparisons that I believe will make the contrast clearer, and I’ll provide a summary list of new contrasts at the end of each chapter as we learn more about a Trust & Inspire approach. You can find a comprehensive list in the Appendix and an ever-growing list online where you can add your own insights.

As you consider these contrasts, think about your own life. When have you experienced the concepts associated with Command & Control? And when have you experienced those on the side of Trust & Inspire? Perhaps more importantly, which side of the experience do you create for those you serve? For your coworkers? Your customers? Your students? Your kids?

Manage Things, Lead People
Before moving on, let’s dig a little deeper into that last contrast: When you think of a manager, what is the first thing that pops into your head?

Now, what pops into your head when I ask you to think of a leader?

Is there a difference in the things or people that come to mind? Perhaps that difference becomes all the more clear when you contrast what it feels like to be “managed” versus what it feels like to be “led.”

The distinctions between management and leadership began to be delineated decades ago starting with Harvard Business School professor Abraham Zaleznik, who posed the question “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” The delineations have continued through Peter Drucker, John Kotter, Warren Bennis, Herminia Ibarra, and many more of today’s influential thinkers. Yet, despite all our progress in overlapping and distinguishing between the two, the reality is that in today’s society, the terms are still typically used interchangeably.

I’m a huge believer in great management. I also believe we need equally great leadership. While both management and leadership are vitally needed, we live in a world that is overmanaged and underled. In fact, most teams, families, and organizations today are overmanaged and underled. Why? There is a disproportionately vital dimension in the contrast between the two, both in definition and in practical application. And that dimension lies in the contrast between people and things.

People in positions of leadership are frequently referred to as managers. While many people are comfortable saying something like “Susan is my manager,” it would feel very different to say, “Susan is the person in charge of managing me.” No one would go into a job interview and say, “My name is Aaron, and I’ll do a decent job, but I really need to be managed.”

The definition of manage is “to handle with a degree of skill.” Its etymology comes from the Latin manus, which means “hand,” and from the Italian maneggiare, which means “to handle horses or handle tools.” Nobody wants to be handled, much less admit to the idea that they really need to be handled by someone with a degree of skill—it’s dehumanizing and feels outright controlling. It perceives and treats an employee as an object or thing instead of as a whole person with a body, heart, mind, and spirit.

Many things need to be managed, even handled with skill. One example is technology, to be used effectively to help us solve problems and improve efficiencies. Schedules need to be managed to be coordinated and aligned to help things get done. Finances need to be managed so revenue, taxes, expenses, payroll, and investments are tracked and in line. Inventories, processes, systems, structures, supply chains all need to be managed. Those are all resources, tools, objects—things. Things serve a purpose and are generally some form of tool for accomplishing a task. But because things have no autonomy or choice, they need to be managed well in order to be effective or valuable.

We need leaders who are great at managing things.

Here’s the problem: those with a Command & Control mindset typically manage people the same way they manage things. The constant focus on efficiency often leads to managers treating people the same way they would treat a machine.

But when you try to manage people like you manage things, you deny the very qualities people possess that bring real, unique value and enable them to solve problems and make decisions in creative, productive ways outside of how you might. In contrast to things, people can be inspired and show empathy. People have autonomy and choice. In fact, people’s greatest value comes when that autonomy is willingly and passionately given, engaged, and unleashed.

The same management thinking around control and containment that works so efficiently with things simply does not work effectively when applied to people. People don’t want to be managed or handled. This approach no longer works in our world today (if it ever did). People won’t stay at a job where they’re being controlled or treated like a replaceable tool or component, as if they were exchangeable or replaceable. You can manage resources. You can manage systems. You can manage processes and procedures. But you cannot effectively manage people.

Managing people doesn’t always go poorly, but it rarely goes well. People might perform well enough to get by, but how big is the gap between performance and potential? Few things demotivate or demoralize people more than being controlled and constantly being told what to do. Not only is that disempowering, it can also kill initiative.

Consider the parable of the flea. When fleas are initially placed in a jar, they jump right out of it. But if a lid is put on the jar, the fleas hit the lid when they try to jump out of the jar. Over time, the fleas will jump only high enough to avoid hitting the lid. When the lid is then taken off, the fleas are fully capable of jumping right out of the jar—but their previous conditioning stops them from doing so.

In many ways, Command & Control is the human equivalent of this type of conditioning. The limiting of potential is perhaps an unintended consequence of being managed like a thing.

Comparatively, the flexibility, trust, and autonomy inherent in the Trust & Inspire approach encourages and inspires people. It conditions them to see and develop their capabilities and potential. They feel invested, they feel energized, they take initiative—and while they don’t want to be managed, they absolutely want to be led.

Operating with a Trust & Inspire mindset means you manage things and you lead people. You’re efficient with things, systems, and processes (a great manager), but you’re also effective with people (a great leader). This distinction is key to narrowing the gap between potential and performance. And it’s also key to tapping into purpose and meaning. As my late colleague Blaine Lee always used to remind me, “Meaning is not in things; meaning is in people.”
Motivation versus Inspiration
The other contrast I want to highlight between Command & Control and Trust & Inspire is the critical distinction between motivation and inspiration.

Despite all the advances we’ve made in how we view and treat people, we rarely focus on inspiring them. We’d like to, but it’s not always easy to know how to really connect with someone or how to tap into something that lights a person up. We might also think that only charismatic people can inspire others.

So instead, we’ve made a science of motivating people. How do we motivate our teams to hit their sales numbers? How do we motivate a child to do better in school? How do we motivate ourselves to lose weight or finish a project? The prevailing operating premise behind motivation is that we need to be “moved” to do something.

Interestingly, nearly all efforts to motivate people can be summed up in two very basic approaches: the carrot or the stick. The carrot offers rewards; the stick threatens negative consequences. Gain or pain. To be clear, carrot-and-stick motivation generally falls under a Command & Control style. The approach is intended to manipulate a person’s normal disposition in order to get what we want.

In reality, motivation isn’t bad. In fact, it can be good. We all like to be motivated, but motivation has its limits. The best of what we need from ourselves and from others is only accessible far beyond the confines of where motivation alone can take us.

A carrot-and-stick approach worked reasonably well during the industrial age. People were predominantly focused on survival and stability, fulfilling the lower levels on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It was also well suited to the type of work that needed to be done.

Building on the work of Douglas McGregor, William Ouchi, and others, author Daniel Pink, in his significant book Drive, explained that all forms of carrot-and-stick motivation are extrinsic motivators—things outside of us that get us to do something. He makes the compelling case that to solve the problems we face today, we have to move from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation, focusing on the upper echelons of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: belonging, esteem, and self-actualization—and Maslow’s later addition, self-transcendence. The idea is to unleash the inherent “drive” that is inside people instead of trying to drive people ourselves. As Pink put it, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

Inspiration is all about helping people find their inner drive—their inner spark—and ignite it into a blaze of genuine excitement and passion. To inspire rather than require. To breathe life into rather than to suffocate or extinguish.

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.


While the Five Emerging Forces show how work, the workplace, and the workforce have significantly changed in our new digital age, the reality is that not a lot has changed in regard to motivation. Many, if not most, organizations still rely primarily on carrot-and-stick reward systems. Most schools do as well. And probably nobody does carrot-and-stick better than parents.

At the most basic level, carrot-and-stick is transactional: If you do X, then you’ll get Y. If you behave well, you’ll get a reward. If you behave poorly, you’ll get punished. If you turn in your assignments, you’ll get a good grade. If you don’t meet your quota, you’ll get let go. If you clean your room, you’ll get your allowance. Take away the reward or the punishment—the external motivating factors—and more often than not, people stop the desired behavior.

Talk about the ultimate manifestation of Command & Control! We command an action, then we control the consequence. This requires little thought, little consideration, and little development of the person. And if we’re not there, the person either doesn’t know what to do or doesn’t care. No real changes have taken place.

Command & Control leaders love carrot-and-stick, both because they know it well and because it works. At least, it seems to work for what they want. Carrot-and-stick can be used almost ad nauseam to get someone to complete a task or achieve a certain number. It can be productive. It can even be impressive. But it’s not much different from teaching a rat to find its way through a maze or a dog to sit. Here’s the catch, as Pink noted: “Do rewards motivate? Absolutely, they motivate people to get more rewards.”

Extrinsic motivation offers short-term success, but it has proven to be deficient, or even detrimental, in the long run. Why? It can create crippling dependencies. It’s conditioning, not developing. Behaviorism, not autonomy. That’s why carrot-and-stick is often referred to as “the great jackass theory of motivation.”

Why do you think cheating in high school and college is on the rise? The emphasis on grades and getting into a good college motivates students (and sometimes even parents) to cheat—on assignments, essays, and standardized tests. Even on admissions applications. A recent study showed that 86 percent of students surveyed admitted to some kind of cheating in school, and 54 percent of them said they thought cheating was okay. Some even thought it was necessary to succeed.

Talk about motivation backfiring! Many students are motivated to get a degree; some are inspired to get an education. There’s a world of difference between the two, both in the chosen path and especially in the outcome. We need more than just graduates who have degrees of knowledge and achievement. We need educated people who have wisdom and passion and who want to make meaningful contributions.

When we inspire others, they might feel a sense of purpose and excitement. They feel that their work matters; more importantly, they feel that they matter. They don’t want to fail because they are invested in and care about the project, not because they’re scared of being punished. When they deliver results, they feel a sense of accomplishment that is more meaningful and fulfilling than receiving an extrinsic reward alone. The ownership and pride they feel leads to creativity and the desire to innovate—to achieve even better results. This leads to long-term success and happier people whose holistic needs are being met.

When things are going wrong, the common refrain from managers is, “Why aren’t my people motivated?” The managers blame employees, while starting to devise ways to motivate people. A humorous example of this comes from the TV sitcom The Office, when the manager, Andy Bernard—needing to meet a quarterly sales quota—tries to motivate his staff by coming up with some lofty reward. He somehow decides to offer to let them choose what tattoo to put on his behind if they hit quota. This is clearly a short-term solution, and even he recognizes there’s only so many places he can get a tattoo.

Instead of asking “Why aren’t my people motivated?” a far better question to ask yourself is “How can I better inspire those I lead?”

Too often we focus simply on cosmetic changes—a new system of rewards, like offering bonuses, or a new system of punishment, like putting a child in “time-out.” Neither is necessarily bad, but neither changes inner motivation and drive. Neither makes others want to be better. Neither of them inspires. And in a new world filled with upcoming generations who care more about passion than they do about possessions, we would do well to abandon surface-level changes and lip service—and to focus instead on authentic inspiration, on breathing life into relationships, teams, and organizations.

There are only two ways to influence human behavior. You can manipulate it, or you can inspire it.


We can intentionally inspire others when we connect with people and connect to purpose. I’ll never forget an impactful conversation I had with Indra Nooyi when she was serving as chair and CEO of PepsiCo. Through an all-encompassing leadership approach she called “Performance with Purpose,” she had already inspired her people by connecting them to purpose, meaning, and contribution in their work. But what really struck me was how she also inspired others by personally connecting with them by genuinely caring about them.

She shared with me that during a visit to her family in India, she noticed the pride her mother felt when others praised her for raising Indra to be such a successful leader. She particularly noticed how others’ praise was not to Indra for being a CEO but rather for her mother (and late father) who had raised her. “They told my mom, ‘You did such a good job with your daughter. Compliments to you. She’s CEO.’ No one said a word to me.”

Indra realized that the leaders of her own company had parents who deserved to hear the same thing about their children. The experience with her mother inspired Indra to write as many as four hundred personal letters annually to the parents of her senior executives. In the letters, she thanked the parents for their magnificent work in raising such good and capable sons and daughters.

Both the parents and the senior executives were sincerely touched by Indra’s heartfelt letters. They were also inspired. People felt valued and seen as whole people, not just people who were compartmentalized for their work. One of her executives exclaimed, “My God, this is the best thing that’s happened to my parents. And it’s the best thing that’s happened to me.”

How would you feel if your boss sent a similar letter to your parents or spouse? Or even your children? Knowing that someone cares about us and recognizes the work we do is crucial to a fulfilled life, because it honors the whole person. Not only that, it inspires us.
Nothing creates dependency faster than Command & Control, while nothing drives or lights the fire within like Trust & Inspire. We can sway people to action, or we can inspire them to greater performance. Ask yourself:
  • As a leader, do I motivate my team to compliance, coordination, and incremental improvement? Or do I inspire them to commitment, collaboration, and creative innovation?
  • As a parent, do I talk at and micromanage my children? Or do I communicate with them, guide them, and trust them to make smart decisions?
  • As a teacher, do I motivate my students to get the assignments turned in? Or do I inspire them to learn and to get an education?

Regardless of your situation, you can extend trust and you can inspire. As you come to see leadership as a stewardship and people as whole people, you can become the kind of leader that will succeed best in today’s world.

If you’re still trying to win by motivating people rather than inspiring them, you’re playing tennis with a golf club. Remember that the game has changed.
You Can Choose to Be a Leader
Some of you might be reading this book and thinking, Well, interesting start, but I’m not in a leadership role or position, so I guess this isn’t for me. I’m happy to say you are wrong, my friend! This book is for you because you are a leader. Leadership is a choice, not a position. Quite often, the most influential leaders are the ones without a formal title or position.

Consider Mohandas Gandhi. He never held a formal government or leadership position, but today he is commonly considered the father of modern India because of the influence of his leadership—all without a title.

A Pakistani schoolgirl named Malala Yousafzai stood up for women’s rights against the Taliban and galvanized global support for the cause of girls’ and women’s education. Her work garnered her the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of fourteen, the youngest recipient ever—all without a title.

I have a friend named Pedro Medina, a businessperson in the Republic of Colombia. In 1999, Colombia was considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, plagued by kidnappings, terrorist acts, drug cartels, and social instability. While teaching at a local university, Medina asked his students how many of them were planning to stay in Colombia after graduation. Only a few hands went up.

That response pained him. He asked those who didn’t raise their hands, “Why do you want to leave?” They responded, “We have lost hope. Can you tell us why we should stay?”

That question haunted him. He ultimately came up with very compelling reasons, and soon thereafter he founded an organization called Yo Creo en Colombia—“I Believe in Colombia.”

The organization was a grassroots initiative whose primary purpose was and continues to be to increase trust and confidence in Colombia, first at home and then abroad. It reaches out to Colombians to advocate for the achievements, potential, and resources of the country and to leverage those “in order to build a fair, competitive, and inclusive nation.” Since its inception, the foundation has touched hundreds of thousands of Colombians in 157 cities and 26 countries.

Medina created a powerful social movement—all without a title. He held no position that required him to create the organization. But his efforts not only took off at the grassroots level, they spawned significant structural and institutional changes at all levels, including the national level. Three years after Medina began his initiative, Alvaro Uribe, inspired by the impact of Yo Creo en Colombia and the numerous like-minded initiatives it inspired, was elected president of the country on the very platform Medina had articulated, “restaurando la confianza” (restoring trust). Uribe was also the first Colombian to be reelected president in more than a century.

Today there is still great work to do, but Colombia has made massive strides in restoring trust in security, investment, and social cohesion—the very things Medina set out to impact, all without a title or a formal position.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time parent, an experienced administrator, a brand-new intern, a community organizer, or a CFO. You do not have to “supervise people” or be in a certain role or situation to be a leader. Author Keith Ferrazzi writes about “leading without authority,” a situation in which team members “co-elevate” themselves and others to share in the leadership role of the team, even when they’re not the formal team leader. You can be a leader to anyone and everyone around you. You can exercise your circle of influence to be a Trust & Inspire leader—even if it’s only for yourself and is manifest only in how you lead your life.

As we move into the Trust & Inspire solution, keep in mind that this is for you, regardless of your role. You’ll find examples from business, education, health care, government, military, nonprofits, sports, communities, and families. Even if the specifics of a particular example don’t directly relate to you, the overarching principles always do. And by applying principles, you will be able to become a more relevant leader in today’s world—even a Trust & Inspire leader. And when people are trusted and inspired, they rise to the occasion, develop capabilities, and reciprocate. They reach their potential and they find their voice, and help others then in turn do the same.

Being trusted and inspired brings out the very best—the greatness—in all of us.

About The Authors

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Stephen M. R. Covey is the New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Speed of Trust, which has been translated into twenty-two languages and has sold over 2 million copies worldwide. He is also the author of the newly released Wall Street Journal bestseller, Trust & Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others, which was named as the #1 Leadership Book of 2022 by the Outstanding Work of Literature Awards. Stephen brings to his writings the perspective of a practitioner, as he is the former President and CEO of the Covey Leadership Center, where he increased shareholder value by sixty-seven times and grew the company to become the largest leadership development firm in the world. A Harvard MBA, Stephen cofounded and currently leads FranklinCovey’s Global Speed of Trust Practice. He serves on numerous boards, including the Government Leadership Advisory Council, and he has been recognized with the lifetime Achievement Award for “Top Thought Leaders in Trust” from the advocacy group, Trust Across America/Trust Around the World. Stephen is a highly sought-after international speaker who has taught trust and leadership in fifty-seven countries to business, government, military, education, healthcare, and NGO entities.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 4, 2023)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982143756

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Raves and Reviews

“As tens of millions of people have come to expect of books with 'Covey' on the cover, this one is superb on every level.”

"[A] spirited appeal for managers to shift from a 'command and control' leadership approach to a 'trust and inspire' one....Covey makes a strong case that 'trust and inspire' leadership helps retain more employees, fosters their best work, and improves the company’s finances....Readers will appreciate his positive spin....a solid reminder that if leaders continue prioritizing 'getting results' over building relationships, they’ll do neither."

"Every leader, every manager, every person interested in how best to connect with others, should read this book! It will be the defining book for leadership in the 21st century."
—WILLIAM H. McRAVEN, 4-Star Admiral & Commander of US Special Operations (Ret.), former Chancellor of University of Texas system, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Your Bed

"The need to move to a new style of leadership, one relevant for the new world of work, has never been more important."
—SATYA NADELLA, Chairman & CEO, Microsoft

"Every parent, every teacher, every leader needs this book."
—ESTHER WOJCICKI, educator, journalist, author of How to Raise Successful People

"For years, I have told people that my favorite book is The Speed of Trust—after reading Trust & Inspire, I now have to say I have two favorite books."
—ERIC YUAN, founder and CEO, Zoom Video Communications

"A beautifully written page-turner, full of engaging stories integrating the author's personal experiences with research-backed insights to show how to lead in a world that has never been more in need of leadership."
—AMY EDMONDSON, Harvard Business School professor, Thinkers50 #1 Thinker in the World

"This book is brimming with ideas on how to bring out the best in people."
—ADAM GRANT, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast Worklife

"Trust & Inspire is the compelling answer to the traditional 'command and control' and 'carrot and stick' approach to leading people. It provides a practical framework and process for bringing out the best in ourselves-and the best in others."
—FRANCES FREI, Harvard Business School professor, co-author of Unleashed

"Trust & Inspire is the future of leadership."
—TONY ROBBINS, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"For fifty years we have heard that we need to move away from 'command and control' leadership. But nobody has named what we should do instead! That's what Stephen M.R. Covey boldly and brilliantly does in the words, and the book, Trust & Inspire. Isn't that what we want? Fifty years from now nobody will speak of command and control without saying 'trust and inspire'. It's going to become a part of our language, a part of what management itself means. As a great leader himself, Stephen will, though this book, unleash the greatness within you.
—GREG McKEOWN, author of the New York Times bestseller, Effortless, and the host of the What’s Essential podcast

"Trust & Inspire is the future of education."
—CATHY QUIROZ MOORE, Superintendent, Wake County Public School System

"Trust & Inspire is a powerful approach to people and leadership found precisely at the intersection of performance and purpose."
—INDRA NOOYI, former Chairman & CED, PepsiCo

"Like the gardener described in this book, the job of leaders is to create an environment where the seeds of greatness within people are able to flourish. Trust & Inspire powerfully demonstrates how to cultivate this kind of growth in any setting."
—MUHAMMAD YUNUS, 2006 Nobel Peace Price winner, founder of Grameen Bank

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