I don’t know how much money has been spent in our society on what is called leadership development, but it must be in the billions. Few organizations lack a leadership training program, whether it be a full curriculum or a course at a local college. Succession programs often include leadership training that lasts for years. However, we see no real breakthrough in leadership effectiveness. For example:
- Only about 13 percent of U.S. public companies consistently met announced performance expectations in the last decade, according to Profit From the Core, by C. Zook & J. Allen (Harvard Business School Press, 2001).
- Only half of U.S. workers say they trust their leadership, according to FranklinCovey’s xQ study of 12,000 U.S. workers in 2003.
- Only 57 percent of all Americans trust corporate leaders to be honest, according to The Support Economy, by S. Zuboff & J. Maxim (Viking, 2002).
- Two out of three Europeans say they distrust the leaders of corporations, according to an April 2002 Eurobarometer Survey of the 15 EU member states.
In an era when so much leadership education goes on, why is there no outbreak of great performance? Why are more and more people so disillusioned with their leaders? Why is the corporation the least trusted entity in our society?
Clearly, we need a new model of leadership. We need leaders who can be trusted to get results. Wherever you find lasting trust, you will find trustworthiness. Trustworthiness, in turn, is the product of a simple determination to keep one’s promises. In its essence, trust is earned only by people who deliver.
Most companies struggle to keep their promises. A study of corporate performance during the 1990s by Bain Consulting revealed that most companies over-promise and under-deliver. Only about one company in eight, or 13 percent, achieved sustained and profitable growth over a decade that many would rank as among the best for the world economy. More than 90 percent of the companies examined aimed at returns well in excess of those levels (Zook & Allen, italics mine).
We need leaders people want to follow. We have long since transitioned from the Industrial Age, when workers did what they were told, to the Age of Knowledge Work, where workers essentially volunteer their efforts and give loyalty to leaders they trust. But too many leaders are still mentally in the Industrial Age. Many of our management assumptions are part of that mentality:
- You have to control and manage people.
- People are an expense, while machines and buildings are assets.
- The carrot and stick motivational philosophy.
I have spoken to hundreds of audiences worldwide, and I always ask how many agree with the following statement: The majority of people in my organization possess far more talent, intelligence, capability and creativity than their present jobs require or even allow. Virtually every hand goes up.
What kind of leader will people volunteer to follow in the 21st century? Will it be those who continue to manage bureaucracies, or those who unleash the talent, intelligence, capability and creativity of the people?
We need great leaders. What we will need are leaders who practice what I call the 8th Habit. These are the truly great leaders whom people willingly follow and who can be relied on to produce great results.
Some time ago I wrote a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which outlined the principles and practices that effective people live by. Now I have come to believe that there is an eighth habit practiced by those who are not only effective, but move on to true greatness. What is the eighth habit? Find your voice and help others find theirs.
Everyone has unique gifts, talents and capabilities that are only slightly leveraged in most organizations. Finding your voice means bridging the painful gap between possessing great potential and actually realizing a life of greatness and contribution. Helping others find their voices is the key to leadership success.
Stephen R. Covey, Ph.D., is co-founder of FranklinCovey, a leading global professional services firm. Stephen is also author of the best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. E-mail Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.