A Highly Effective Leader: Stephen Covey Says We Need to Help More People Find Their Own Purpose and Unique Contribution

By Eliason, Todd | Success, January 2009 | Go to article overview

A Highly Effective Leader: Stephen Covey Says We Need to Help More People Find Their Own Purpose and Unique Contribution


Eliason, Todd, Success


Over the past six months, the world has witnessed the financial consequences of what happens when the basic principles of honesty, thrift, living within your means and saving for a rainy day are substituted for a me-first, win-at-all-cost, grab-all-the-money-you-can kind of culture. What is needed more now than ever is a dose of common sense, back-to-basics thinking--a commitment to tried-and-true principles that best-selling author, entrepreneur and leadership icon Stephen Covey has taught throughout his distinguished career.

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"Financial success--prestige, wealth, recognition, accomplishment--will always be secondary in greatness," Covey says. "Primary greatness is about character and contribution. Primary greatness asks, What are you doing to make a difference in the world? Do you live truly by your values? Do you have total integrity in all of your relationships? And when correct principles are not followed or ignored, the result can be catastrophic as we have witnessed the past year in the financial markets."

Money, whether in government or on Wall Street, can change one's motivation and integrity if money is the No. 1 objective, Covey says. "At this crucial time in our history, we need leaders who can affirm other people's worth and potential to help them find their voice," he says.

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Sound advice like this has made Covey one of the most sought-after voices in business, education and government. To date, Covey has personally taught 36 heads of state and his company, Franklin Covey, has worked with 800 of the Fortune 1,000 companies.

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All-Star Resume

Covey has seen and done it all when it comes to helping people from all walks of life realize the greatness that lies within them. His first book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, was named the most influential business book of the 20th century by Forbes magazine. (The audio version became the first nonfiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than 1 million copies.) In 1996, TIME magazine named Covey one of the 25 most influential Americans. Tens of millions of people in business, government, schools and families have greatly benefited by applying the principles of Covey's classic book.

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Born in 1932 in Salt Lake City, Covey benefited from strong family influences. His mother and father constantly confirmed his worth and potential even as a young child. His business acumen was fostered by his Grandfather Covey, an entrepreneur who set up businesses all over the western United States. The spiritual side that is so prevalent in Covey's books results in part from many days at the knee of his Grandpa Richards, who was a great spiritual leader in his church.

Being the eldest sibling, Stephen Covey was the heir apparent destined to take over the family business, which owned several hotels, motels and lots of land. But he found his calling elsewhere. While serving his church as a young missionary in Great Britain, he had a mentor who taught him the art of training leaders. Although he felt inadequate for the job at first, his mentor saw in him a rare and natural talent. Covey says he had never experienced such satisfaction than training those leaders and soon developed a passion for teaching. After he finished his academic work at Harvard Business School, he made it known to his father that he would not be taking over the family business, but instead wanted to teach principles that had universal and timeless applications.

Bringing Back the Character Ethic

The genesis of Covey's work started when he was working on his doctorate. He immersed himself in an in-depth study of many authors of success literature over the past 200 years. He pored over thousands of articles and essays from popular psychology, personal development and self-help. …

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