While professional titles earn you the responsibility to lead, anyone can be a leader in achieving vital goals, optimizing a career, and redefining professional roles. What proven wisdom can we rely on in such challenging times?
Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was named the No. 1 most influential business book of the 20th century, selling more than 40 million copies in 50-plus languages.
In the new 30th anniversary edition of the book, Sean Covey, president of FranklinCovey Education and son of the late Stephen Covey, adds his insights in each chapter on how the book's habits can propel the next generation of leaders toward success.
"The more challenging society's problems become, the more relevant the seven habits are to new generations of leaders. The seven habits are based on timeless principles of effectiveness that are universally accepted," Sean contends. "My father didn't claim to invent these concepts; he forged them into habits people can access and live by. And they work!"
They've been integrated into the everyday thinking of millions of people of all ages and occupations (CEOs and entrepreneurs among them), who have accessed the principles to achieve extraordinary results. Let's revisit the timeless principles of The 7 Habits to help us navigate our current challenges:
Habit 1: Be proactive.
People are responsible for their own choices and have the freedom to choose in accord with their principles and values rather than moods or conditions. They develop their four unique human gifts -- self-awareness, conscience, imagination, and independent will -- and take an inside-out approach to change. They choose not to be victims, to be reactive, or to blame others.
Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
Highly effective people shape their own future by creating a mental vision and purpose for their life, week, day, and any project, large or small. They don't just live day to day without a clear purpose in mind.
Habit 3: Put first things first.
Highly effective people make decisions with a clear sense of what's most important. They organize and execute around their most important priorities, as may be expressed in their personal, family, and organizational mission statements. They're driven by purpose, not by agendas and forces surrounding them.
Habit 4: Think win-win.
Highly effective people think in terms of mutual benefit. They foster support and mutual respect. They think interdependently -- "we," not "me" -- and develop win-win agreements. They don't think selfishly (win-lose) or like a martyr (lose-win).
Habit 5: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.
Seek first to listen with the intent to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, and then seek to effectively communicate your own thoughts and feelings. Through understanding, highly effective people build deep relationships of trust and love, give helpful feedback, don't withhold feedback, and won't seek first to be understood.
Habit 6: Synergize.
Highly effective people focus on their strengths and celebrate and thrive on the strengths of others, so by respecting and valuing others' differences, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. They develop third-alternative solutions to problems with others that are better than what one person would, alone. They don't go for compromise (1 + 1 = 1½) or merely cooperation (1 + 1 = 2) but creative cooperation (1 + 1 = 3 or more).
Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.
Highly effective people increase their effectiveness by renewing themselves regularly in four areas: body (physical), mind (mental), heart (social/emotional), and spirit (spiritual--service, meaning, and contribution).
For further insight and anecdotes related to The 7 Habits, I had a chance to interview another of Covey's sons -- Stephen M.R. Covey, best-selling author of The Speed of Trust. He joined me on the Love in Action podcast to discuss his father's work and legacy, including the reasons why the book has stood the test of time.
With new powerful insights and anecdotes added to this edition, the book offers a structured process for living with fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity. It now takes its three decades of leadership and personal growth to the next level.