“Trust and Inspire” Author Stephen M. R. Covey Delivers Keynote Address at EKU Pedagogicon

Published on June 11, 2024

By Evan Bentley

Stephen M. R. Covey, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author and public speaker, took the stage at Eastern Kentucky University’s (EKU) Center for the Arts as the keynote speaker for Pedagogicon on May 15. The conference, held in collaboration with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), focused on student engagement and experiential learning.

“EKU and the CPE worked tirelessly to ensure this year’s Pedagogicon conference enlightened, strengthened and empowered educators across the Commonwealth,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “Stephen M. R. Covey and his unparalleled insights on leadership were profoundly relevant to our mission of shaping the next generation of leaders and thinkers. Through his expertise, we had an enriching experience that empowered our community to embrace integrity-driven leadership and foster positive change in education.”

Covey, known for his leadership philosophy that builds trust and inspires teams, encouraged participants to move away from traditional control methods. Instead, he shared new strategies for faculty to inspire students and promote innovation and empowerment, emphasizing modern approaches to education and leadership in the classroom.

“People don’t want to be managed; people do want to be led. They want to be trusted, and they want to be inspired. When they are, they’ll stay; when they’re not, they will find a place where they are,” said Covey.

Covey critiqued outdated leadership methods, saying, “Continuing to operate with a leadership style of command and control in this digital world is equivalent to Tiger Woods playing tennis with a golf club. It is not relevant to the game we are playing today.”

He also stressed the importance of recognizing individual potential and avoiding a one-size-fits-all teaching approach. Covey illustrated this with the story of Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Miranda, who opted to write a musical instead of completing assigned homework, was encouraged by an inspiring teacher who recognized his potential.

“Command and control teaching would have said, ‘Do your homework,’ but his inspiring teacher said, ‘You should be doing this,’” said Covey. Miranda’s teacher broke traditional methods, helping him realize his true potential.

The event also featured Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who shared her journey in fostering her daughter she met through the school system as both the child’s teacher and coach.

“I want to share a story with you all today about the way I knew that education could transform kids’ lives,” said Coleman.

Coleman ensured her foster child was committed to education, knowing it was a catalyst for greatness. She raised and inspired a child who would go on to break every basketball record for the school. Coleman underscored the value of trust and awareness when working with those you can lead. 

Covey continued the same sentiment in his message. He highlighted the importance of adapting to the rapidly changing world by prioritizing trust, inspiration and effectiveness.

The audience, composed of educators and government officials, received Covey’s speech enthusiastically. Esther French, librarian and associate professor at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, said, “He’s definitely inspiring, and it can be applied to the classroom. A lot of what he said can help students reach their full potential.”

Covey’s books include “Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others” and “The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything.” 

The Pedagogicon is a national conference focused on teaching and learning, coordinated and hosted by EKU. Each year, Pedagogicon attracts hundreds of scholars throughout Kentucky and beyond to discuss and exchange ideas and strategies focused on current and emerging themes. Conferences such as Pedagogicon demonstrate EKU’s commitment as a School of Opportunity, providing professional development and advancing and innovating education.