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Servant Leadership and Organizational Trust


                   “Organizations are no longer built on force,

                                              but on trust.”

                                                                ~Peter Drucker

Stephen Covey (Stephen R. Covey’s son) highlights the third wave of trust in his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything as Organizational Trust. This wave of trust is all about establishing trust with the internal stakeholders of your organization.  Last week, we discussed the 4 Cores of Credibility and the 13 Behaviors.
The third wave of trust lays the foundation for your organization to create value, establish and maintain trust, increase speed of product or service delivery, lower organizational costs, increase the bottom line, and maximize influence- yours and your organization. The core concept of this wave of trust is considered the Principle of Alignment.
The chapter begins by asking two main questions and gives an illustration of the difference between low-trust and high-trust organizations. The two questions help to gauge how you might apply the tools above to your organization. The two questions are;

  • How would you describe a low-trust organization?
  • How would you describe a high-trust organization?

The lists consist of the answers Covey’s workshop participants provided for both questions. See if you can find your organization in one of these two lists.
Low-Trust Organizations

  • People manipulate or distort facts
  • People withhold and hoard information
  • Getting the credit is very important
  • People spin the truth to their advantage
  • New ideas are openly resisted and stifled
  • Mistakes are covered up or covered over
  • Most people are involved in the blame game, bad-mouthing others
  • There is an abundance of Watercooler talk
  • There are numerous “meetings after meetings.”
  • There are many “Undiscussables.”
  • People tend to overpromise and under deliver
  • The energy and consciousness are extremely low
  • There are a lot of expectations, for which people try to make excuses
  • People pretend bad things aren’t happening or are in denial
  • People often feel unproductive tension- sometimes even fear

Covey’s participants that discussed high-trust organizations said they typically see different behaviors such as:
High-Trust Organizations

  • Information is shared openly
  • Mistakes are tolerated and encouraged as a way of learning
  • The culture is innovative and creative
  • People are loyal to those who are absent
  • People talk straight and confront real issues
  • There is real communication and authentic collaboration
  • People share credit abundantly
  • There are few “meetings after meetings.”
  • Transparency is a practical value
  • People are candid and authentic
  • There is a high degree of accountability
  • There exists palpable vitality and energy- a consciousness of positive momentum (Adapted from Covey, pg. 237).

Covey presents four ideas to increase the Principle of Alignment within your organization. Servant Leaders know that integrity, intent, capabilities, and results will yield long-lasting success within the organization. The four cores, applied organizationally, can improve trust. For example;
Organizational Integrity
Improve your organization’s mission or values statement. Create a culture of keeping commitments-especially in small things. Remember, they are watching how you keep your commitments.
Organizational Intent
Make sure that your mission and values are reflected in the motive and principles that build trust. Set an example and demonstrate care and concern for everyone. Use systems that focus on benefitting everyone like stewardship accountability, rewarding cooperation, and building trust on a daily basis.
Organizational Capabilities
Put systems in place that attract and retain the talent needed to be competitive in today’s global market. Provide on-going professional development, mentoring, and training to promote satisfaction that comes from growth and expansion for the stakeholders. Information and decision-making systems should include everyone to meet organizational goals and customer needs.
Organizational Results
Create a shared vision for everyone to embrace. Get and keep everyone on the same page. Provide accountability systems for internal stakeholders to get results on a consistent basis. Use balanced scorecards or other systems that meet the needs of the stakeholders, and not just the bosses.
Servant Leaders understand that organizations are severely taxed when low-trust is rampant. And, on the other hand, organizations receive dividends when there is high-trust within the organization. The seven taxes for low-trust organizations, along with the seven dividends for high-trust organizations are highlighted below.
The 7 Low-Trust Organizational Taxes

  • Redundancy
  • Bureaucracy
  • Politics
  • Disengagement
  • Turnover
  • Churn (turnover other than employees, like customers, suppliers, distributors, investors, etc.)
  • Fraud

The 7 High-Trust Organizational Dividends

  • Value
  • Accelerated Growth
  • Enhanced Innovation
  • Improved Collaboration
  • Stronger Partnering
  • Better Execution
  • Heightened Loyalty

I love how Covey brings this chapter to an end by discussing these same core concepts as it relates to family. Everything in this chapter applies just as powerfully to the family as it does to any other organization. For instance, does your family have integrity? Are values and guidelines clear? Does our family have good intent? Are we kind and caring to one another? What are our family’s capabilities? Is it safe to learn from mistakes? And finally, what results does our family produce? Are systems and processes in place to create joy and share are great accomplishments?
Indeed, as Servant Leaders in our homes and our workplace modeling the 4 Cores and 13 behaviors, we create an alignment that supports our structure and values. And in doing so, Servant Leaders positively affect everything else in our families as well as in our organizations.
To Organizational Trust,
Dr. Crystal

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