October 25, 2013

As I write, I am wrapping up my time in Las Vegas at the Gazelles FORTUNE Growth Summit. It has been days of insightful and passionate dialogue about the changing dynamic of leadership – what good leadership is, why we so badly need it, and how to cultivate it.  I am blown away by how relevant my favorite topic – candor – is to so many of our world’s most recognized business and leadership experts.

Case in point, Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (and son of Stephen R. Covey of “7 Habits” fame), told this group of 600 mid-market business leaders:

1)      Trust is an economic engine, not just a social engine

2)      Trust is the Number 1 competency of leadership needed today

3)      Trust is a learned competency

Covey goes on to outline his behaviors of trust and lists number one as “Talk Straight:”

Be honest, tell the truth, and let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions.

Basically, be candid! That is, be honest, direct and respectful, which are the core tenets of candor.

Covey also cautions us to not be fooled by “counterfeit” straight talk and offers up a great reminder of what this looks like:

Spinning, positioning and manipulating. Withholding information, beating around the bush, double-talking, and flattery. “Corporate speak.” Technically telling the truth, but leaving the wrong impression.

How familiar does that sound? All too often, business and other leaders are operating in this “corporate-speak” and “spin” mindset, which is unraveling our ability to build trust and communicate successfully.

Covey is saying – and I agree – that Trust is the most important quality of leaders today and that Candor is the first behavior to building trust. This leads me to ponder… which comes first, candor or trust? Is there trust without candor? Vice versa? I believe they go hand-in-hand and we must continue to promote both for the growth of business relationships and results.