When a book has sold more than 25 million copies, been translated into 40 languages, and been named one of the top management books of all time, something about it is resonating with people. One would think that most leaders would aspire to incorporate the key concepts of such an influential work into their everyday interactions and strategic efforts . . . yes, one would think.
It’s not that the steps are difficult. We teach them to grade school children in my community, and kindergarteners can demonstrate an understanding of the concepts. Indeed, the most profound truths are usually quite simple. And yet somehow, when people achieve a certain level of leadership responsibility, there is a tendency to think there must be some complicated mix of secret sauce, doled out only to a few select individuals, that is responsible for their success. I hate to burst that bubble, but there are about 25 million people who have been given the same secret sauce.
The secret sauce? “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. All seven habits can be described in less than 30 words. Their simplicity is powerful, undoubtedly, but simple does not necessarily mean easy. In fact, in many cases, simple is much harder to do. (No one promised you this gig would be easy, right?!?)
Indulge me for a minute here, and think about your most pressing organizational (or political, or community) leadership challenge, and honestly ask yourself these questions:
- Have you been proactive in your approach, or are you reacting to the loudest voices, or fear, or those who would seek to undermine your efforts?
- Do you and everyone on your team know your succinctly stated end goal, or are you merely moving in the general direction some external source is pushing you to go?
- Do you prioritize your efforts on the most urgent, important things that only you can do, or do you get drawn into the daily drama that sucks the energy out of even the best intentions?
- Are you really looking for a solution where everyone wins, even if it means you might have to give a little in the process?
- Have you listened long enough and understand another’s position well enough to either find a middle ground or to explain your position starting from their frame of reference?
- Are you open enough to the input of others to consider that together you might come up with a much better solution that you could alone?
- Are you willing to really put in the time it takes to renew and stretch yourself in new ways . . . which will require saying no to some of the things that “everyone” thinks you should be doing?
Pretty simple questions, really. And the answers will separate the true leaders from the wanna-be’s.
Maybe it’s time for some new habits.