Sandra J. Sucher

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Internationally Recognized Expert on Building Institutional Trust and Moral Leadership; Co-author, “The Power of Trust” (July 2021); Former Corporate Executive Specializing in Business Process Improvement; Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School

Biography

Trust isn’t a feeling. It results from intentional choices, says Harvard Business School Professor of Management Practice Sandra J. Sucher. By helping leaders see trust not as an aesthetic wrapper, but rather as the foundation for building relationships with stakeholders of all kinds – customers, employees, investors, and the public – Sucher provides a roadmap for becoming trusted in a world where the demands on organizations, their leaders, and their boards are growing all the time. Much of her work involves helping key decision makers understand, prioritize and manage the interests of different groups in areas like corporate citizenship and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Sucher is an accomplished business executive who spent years developing and building on her commitment to moral leadership while working as a manager in the financial services, retail and nonprofit sectors. As a business process improvement specialist, she actively incorporated trust, morality and DEI into workplace systems and witnessed firsthand how such a focus significantly benefited the organization and its employees. Her new book, “The Power of Trust: How Companies Earn It, Lose It, Regain It,” (Public Affairs, July 2021) – co-authored with colleague Shalene Gupta – summarizes her two decades of research examining the gray areas of business. The book serves as an essential guide for leaders interested in cultivating trust within and outside their organizations. Soon after its release, “The Power of Trust” was named among the best business books in July 2021 by The Financial Times.

“Trust underpins a range of issues related to gender, corporate responsibility, race and beyond,” says Sucher, who is a member of the Edelman Trust Institute advisory board and has collaborated with Deloitte on TrustIQ™, a proprietary tool that measures key elements of trust in major corporations and public sector organizations. “We often think of trust in an ephemeral way, as a good feeling that everyone shares. But trust is actually a skill grounded in relationship management and understanding motivations. It’s a framework designed to change cultures and open the door to more effective ways of engaging with constituents.”

Ethics are at the core of Sucher’s work. As an advisor, speaker and executive coach, she teaches leaders the importance of inviting in diverse perspectives before making decisions and shows them how to do it successfully. She also helps organizations weather disruption without harming employees. Her 2019 articles on trust, “The Trust Crisis,” “Leading with Trust,” and “The Elements of a Good Company Apology,” were featured as a “big idea” on HBR.org. Her 2018 article, “Layoffs That Don’t Break Your Company,” was selected as a Harvard Business Review “must read” for its insights into how layoffs decimate trust.

“Most of us treat our own moral views as both obvious and self-evident, but leaders must be able to handle complexity by holding multiple perspectives in view at the same time,” says Sucher. “Firms should be looking for reliable methods for leaders to develop and refine these moral reasoning skills.”

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Sandra J. Sucher has worked as chair of the Better Business Bureau, a vice president at Fidelity Investments and a senior executive at Filene’s Basement, where she co-authored the proposal to expand from a single-unit business into a national chain. Her leadership teachings are codified in two books based on the Harvard Business School course The Moral Leader. Her research appears in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Quartz, Business Insider, CNBC, NPR and Marketplace, as well as internationally in Germany, Latin America and Japan. In 2021, Sucher and her “Power of Trust” co-author were shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award, which celebrates a eureka moment in management thinking.

Sandra J. Sucher is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

Thinkers50 Live with Sandra Sucher & Shalene Gupta (Video)

September 7, 2021

Trust: How To Earn It, Keep It And Assess It In Others

August 31, 2021

The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It

August 25, 2021

‘The Power of Trust’ Review: When Reliable Is Profitable

August 18, 2021

The Power of Trust With Sandra Sucher (Audio)

August 13, 2021

Leading With Trust

August 5. 2021

The Power of Trust with Sandra Sucher

August 5, 2021

'The Power of Trust' by Sandra J. Sucher and Shalene Gupta: Why Do We Trust Organizations and Leaders?

August 5, 2021

Worried Your Staff Will Join The Great Resignation? Focus On Being A Good Company To Be From

August 4, 2021

Should I Trust Them? Do They Trust Me? Harvard Professor Sandra Sucher on The Power of Trust (Audio)

August 3, 2021

The Power of Trust: It's Not Just the Title of Sandra Sucher's Latest Book (Audio)

July 27, 2021

A Conversation On Organizational Trust with Punit Renjen

July 21, 2021

The Power of Trust: A Book Review By Bob Morris

July 21, 2021

Talent And Trust: The Woman Who Rose To The Top Of Saudi Arabia's Banking Sector

July 20, 2021

To Earn Customer And Employee Loyalty Proactively, Cultivate Trust

July 20, 2021

The Power of Trust with Harvard Business School Professor Sandra Sucher (Audio)

July 19, 2021

FT Business Books: July Edition ($)

July 15, 2021

The Art of Constructing Apologies, with Sandra Sucher (Audio)

July 11, 2021

These Are The Personality Traits You Need to Lead With Trust

July 7, 2021

Good News for Disgraced Companies: You Can Regain Trust

July 7, 2021

Repairing A Breach Of Trust

July 7, 2021

The Good News About Trust: You Can Cultivate It

July 6, 2021

Leading With Trust

July 6, 2021

First Look: Leadership Books for July 2021

July 1, 2021

Quicktake "Charge" Full Show (Video starts at 33:26)

July 1, 2021

Author Talks: Sandra J. Sucher On The Power Of Trust

June 30, 2021

Earning Your Team’s Trust

June 28, 2021

Study Shows CEO and Worker Pay Gap Is Widening (Video)

June 24, 2021

What Leaders and Corporate Boards Can Learn From Boeing’s Mistakes: Harvard Business School’s Sandra Sucher (Audio)

June 22, 2021

NASDAQ, Stock Exchange Behind Diversity Push, Blasted for Own Failures

June 7, 2021

Edelman Launches the Edelman Trust Institute, A Global Center for the Study of Trust

June 3, 2021

What Corporate Boards Can Learn from Boeing’s Mistakes

June 2, 2021

Restoring Trust in Government (Audio)

April 21, 2021

Insights In Depth: The Future of Government (Audio)

April 7, 2021

The Breach of the U.S. Capitol Was a Breach of Trust

January 11, 2021

How to Support Employees During, After Furloughs: 3 Imperatives

April 24, 2020

The Economist logo

From “You’re Fired” to “You’re Furloughed”

April 4, 2020

Layoffs That Don’t Break Your Company

March 18, 2020

Apple Has Survived Backlash to the Tech World While Amazon, Google, Facebook and Other Tech Giants Struggle — An Expert on Trust Explains Why

November 26, 2019

When Businesses Violate the Public’s Trust (Audio)

August 16, 2019

Scandals, Apologies and Trust Issues: the Aftermath of a Corporate Crisis (Audio)

July 25, 2019

The Elements of a Good Company Apology

July 23, 2019

Leading With Trust

July 17, 2019

The Trust Crisis

July 16, 2019

How Boeing Should Have Responded to the 737 Max Safety Crisis

March 14, 2019

Leadership Lessons of the Great Recession: Options for Economic Downturns

September 9, 2015

The Quest for Better Layoffs

January 7, 2015

Teaching The Moral Leader

November 19, 2007

A-Z Name

Sucher, Sandra J.

Biography

Trust isn’t a feeling. It results from intentional choices, says Harvard Business School Professor of Management Practice Sandra J. Sucher. By helping leaders see trust not as an aesthetic wrapper, but rather as the foundation for building relationships with stakeholders of all kinds – customers, employees, investors, and the public – Sucher provides a roadmap for becoming trusted in a world where the demands on organizations, their leaders, and their boards are growing all the time. Much of her work involves helping key decision makers understand, prioritize and manage the interests of different groups in areas like corporate citizenship and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Sucher is an accomplished business executive who spent years developing and building on her commitment to moral leadership while working as a manager in the financial services, retail and nonprofit sectors. As a business process improvement specialist, she actively incorporated trust, morality and DEI into workplace systems and witnessed firsthand how such a focus significantly benefited the organization and its employees. Her new book, “The Power of Trust: How Companies Earn It, Lose It, Regain It,” (Public Affairs, July 2021) – co-authored with colleague Shalene Gupta – summarizes her two decades of research examining the gray areas of business. The book serves as an essential guide for leaders interested in cultivating trust within and outside their organizations. Soon after its release, “The Power of Trust” was named among the best business books in July 2021 by The Financial Times.

“Trust underpins a range of issues related to gender, corporate responsibility, race and beyond,” says Sucher, who is a member of the Edelman Trust Institute advisory board and has collaborated with Deloitte on TrustIQ™, a proprietary tool that measures key elements of trust in major corporations and public sector organizations. “We often think of trust in an ephemeral way, as a good feeling that everyone shares. But trust is actually a skill grounded in relationship management and understanding motivations. It’s a framework designed to change cultures and open the door to more effective ways of engaging with constituents.”

Ethics are at the core of Sucher’s work. As an advisor, speaker and executive coach, she teaches leaders the importance of inviting in diverse perspectives before making decisions and shows them how to do it successfully. She also helps organizations weather disruption without harming employees. Her 2019 articles on trust, “The Trust Crisis,” “Leading with Trust,” and “The Elements of a Good Company Apology,” were featured as a “big idea” on HBR.org. Her 2018 article, “Layoffs That Don’t Break Your Company,” was selected as a Harvard Business Review “must read” for its insights into how layoffs decimate trust.

“Most of us treat our own moral views as both obvious and self-evident, but leaders must be able to handle complexity by holding multiple perspectives in view at the same time,” says Sucher. “Firms should be looking for reliable methods for leaders to develop and refine these moral reasoning skills.”

###

Sandra J. Sucher has worked as chair of the Better Business Bureau, a vice president at Fidelity Investments and a senior executive at Filene’s Basement, where she co-authored the proposal to expand from a single-unit business into a national chain. Her leadership teachings are codified in two books based on the Harvard Business School course The Moral Leader. Her research appears in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Quartz, Business Insider, CNBC, NPR and Marketplace, as well as internationally in Germany, Latin America and Japan. In 2021, Sucher and her “Power of Trust” co-author were shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award, which celebrates a eureka moment in management thinking.

Sandra J. Sucher is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Trust: The Foundation of Successful Organizations

Trust can mean different things to different people. As Harvard Business School Professor Sandra Sucher explains, “Trust is an elusive, even mushy, concept. Betrayal of trust, however, underpins many issues related to corporate responsibility, ethics, and diversity, equity and inclusion.” In this presentation, based on her new book “The Power of Trust,” Sucher provides a four-part model for understanding trust — competence, motives, means and impact — that transforms trust from a wish to something companies and their leaders can actively manage. To become trustworthy, she says, companies must be sensitive to diverse audiences when developing and marketing products, services and technologies, and caring in their treatment of people. Highlighting her decades of research, Sucher offers audiences a roadmap for building trust or regaining it once it’s lost.

How Boards Play a Key Role in Building Trustworthy Organizations

Boards are fiduciaries, which means their duty is to protect other people’s interests, generally defined as consisting of a duty of care, a duty of loyalty, and, some legal scholars would argue, a duty of candor, says Harvard Business School Professor Sandra Sucher, an internationally recognized expert on building institutional trust and moral leadership and co-author of “The Power of Trust” (July 2021). In this presentation, Professor Sucher outlines key steps board members can take to become moral role models such as ensuring their board has the right members, that it is structured correctly, and that members are able to have intentional, open, honest and timely conversations where issues of accountability can be fully addressed.

Becoming a Moral Leader

Successful leaders – at any level and in any arena – are inevitably presented with moral and ethical choices. In both our business and personal lives, we navigate a complex web of problems that often don’t have clear-cut answers. Harvard Business School Professor Sandra Sucher knows firsthand that business leaders are often tasked with making consequential decisions on issues that may conflict with organizational goals or interests. In this presentation, based on her Harvard Business School courses, Sucher teaches participants how to navigate difficult decisions, especially those with a moral or ethical component. She further encourages managers to confront those fundamental moral challenges, to develop skills in moral analysis and judgment, and to come to terms with their own definition of moral leadership and how it can be translated into action.

Making Good on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Promises

When proactive steps are not taken to make workplaces more inclusive, resentment can set in among those who feel slighted, overlooked or unfairly compensated. In some cases, companies face discrimination lawsuits. Even a brand’s well-meaning choice to passively participate in a social media campaign like #blackouttuesday can reveal a level of insincerity, which may, in turn, result in public and consumer distrust. In this presentation, Harvard Business School Professor Sandra Sucher shows participants how to create an inclusive culture that enables trust within the organization and how to ensure their brand can be trusted by those on the outside.

Media

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “The Power of Trust”

“You can’t buy it. You can’t sell it. You can’t even see it. But if you had more of it, your employees would work harder, and your customers would stay with you longer. Trust is one of the most valuable intangible assets that a company can have and this book will show you how to get more of it. Packed with wonderful stories and practical examples, this book is a great read. TRUST me!”

— Erin Meyer, INSEAD, author of “The Culture Map” and coauthor of “No Rules Rules”

“The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found business is the most trusted institution. Business has a new mandate to lead as the world combats ongoing crises and widespread mistrust. Against this backdrop, “The Power of Trust” is a must-read. Both scholarly and practical, it draws on fields from ancient philosophy to modern management theory to analyze and deeply examine the core elements of business trust while taking a lively journey through real-world cases of trust won and lost (and won again). Professor Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta make a vital contribution to the trust conversation and provide a compelling call to action for CEOs to build trust by embracing a broader societal role.”

— Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman

“Full of fresh insights brought to life by compelling examples, “The Power of Trust” is a rich and rewarding read. It’s also extremely timely. With more and more companies today pledging to balance the interests of all of their stakeholders, and not always put their shareholders first, Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta make clear that the driving question executives should be asking themselves every time they make a major decision is, ‘Will this enhance trust among those we claim to serve—or betray it?’”

Rick Wartzman, author of “The End of Loyalty”

“Unveils a new understanding of the business, economic, and societal importance of trust.”

— Jeffery Weirens, Global Financial Advisory Leader, Deloitte

“With vibrant and compelling insights, Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta break important new ground about trust as a key foundation for both human relationships and business. Their illuminating and exciting exploration of what it takes to build trust, combined with vivid storytelling, make this page-turner a critical companion for any business leader.”

— Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO, Best Buy, and author of “The Heart of Business”

“Trust is at the foundation of sustainably successful enterprises in business, government, and any organization, for that matter. “The Power of Trust” does a great job explaining the how and why of building trust, including fairness, one of my favorite issues.”

— David M. Cote, former CEO, Honeywell, and author of “Winning Now, Winning Later”

“Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta offer a comprehensive blueprint for companies and leaders who want to build or regain the trust of their stakeholders. Their work provides an insightful trust model that underpins moral leadership — looking at competence, motives, means, and impact. A brilliant resource for anyone who wants to truly understand what trust is, how it works, and what they can do to incorporate it into their leadership practice.”

 — Celia Moore, co-director, Centre for Responsible Leadership, Imperial College Business School

Praise for “The Moral Leader”

“Sandra Sucher … has an extraordinary and excellent grasp of the process of moral reasoning and her exploration of that process through powerful literature and historical figures is just wonderful.  This should be required reading – and digestion – for every leader in every organization.”

– Professor James G. Clawson, Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, Charlottesville

 “The Moral Leader provides an insightful and much needed approach to effective moral leadership and its role in modern society … The book is an important resource for students and leaders who will confront difficult moral and ethical challenges.”

– Professor Kim Cameron, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

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