Enabling Covenantal Relationships

June 2, 2011

In contractual relationships, our primary concern is holding others accountable for high standards of performance. Effective contractual relationships require what we deal with others in good faith and that we assume full responsibility for performing our part of the arrangement. That is absolutely essential, but the normative trust and commitment of contractual relationships will never be enough to establish a high performance work environment.

Research has shown that only affective trust and commitment between leaders and followers produces the psychological safety requisite for people to apply the full potential of their heads, hands, and hearts to work. Building on a solid foundation of fair contractual relationships for everyone, high performance leadership moves to establish covenantal relationships with as many employees as possible.

Covenant promises require a different kind of trust, commitment, and leadership intimacy than do contracts.  Contracts are the currency of bosses and subordinates; covenants the currency of partners. Interdependent partners in covenant relationship commit to enabling each other to keep promises established to achieve the vision, values, goals, and daily behaviors consonant with their shared purpose.

Unless and until you are willing to hold yourself accountable for performing your own job with distinction, walking the talk your employees value, and genuinely caring for those you’ve been given the privilege to lead, you will never master covenant leadership. You are not entitled to partnership; you earn partnership by first providing it to others.

How can I help?” may be the single most important question you can learn to ask as a leader.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Comments (4)

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  1. John Griffin says:

    Excellent post. I especially like “Contracts are the currency of bosses and subordinates; covenants the currency of partners.”
    Covenants enables each party to come alongside of each other in mutual purpose/vision execution.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I LOVE that picture of “coming alongside”. That means I’m not going to carry you, but I will lend you a shoulder when you need it. Thanks, John! Bret

  2. Mike says:

    I like the term and concept of “covenants the currency of partners” The though of partners who “commit to enabling each other to keep promises established” seems very empowering to me.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Glad you liked it, Mike! Thanks, Bret