The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey


The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was published in 1989 and is one of the most wonderful books that I have ever come across in my life. It is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. This book has allowed me to look into myself and bring out my leadership skills and the most important fact is that all aspects are expressed in a very simple language. Every person has an individual set of habits that form the character. Most of us find it very difficult to change the habits that are formed over the years. However, Stephen Covey says that it can be done by great commitment. The initial chapter focuses on a person to achieve interdependence. In this book, Covey has expressed the term leader which implies effective use of influence that is somewhat independent of the formal authority granted to an individual because of position. The book mentions that leadership cannot be granted to a person by a higher authority; rather, those who decide to follow bestow it on an individual. While managers have formal authority, leaders have the informal ability to get things done by attracting and influencing followers.

Main body

It can be said that the Seven Habits is a principle-centered paradigm. Principles can be defined as guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value — they are fundamental. Covey speaks about character ethics and personality ethics. The character ethics focus on integrating the principles of effective living into one’s character which may be a very long process. However, I feel that this is one of the most important aspects that one needs to focus on since working on the character simply means getting to the root from which behavior evolves. On the other hand, the personality ethic mainly deals with the skills and techniques one may have to learn, that can bring success to an individual. Covey explains that there are seven habits that one needs to follow or in other words successful or highly effective individuals have a set of seven habits that form the basis for their success. The following are the list of seven habits: Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Personal Management; Think Win/Win; Seek to Understand, Then Be Understood; Principles of Creative Cooperation; and Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal.

The first three habits can be categorized as the ones that deal with self-mastery. I feel that these are the habits that need to be developed by our effort and no one else can do it for us. According to Covey an individual can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you respond to certain things. He separates what happens around us from how we react to it. I feel that this is an important lesson to me and I need to change myself from being reactive to being more proactive. Being proactive refers to not only taking action but also taking responsibility for everything in one’s life.

The second habit that Covey talks about is “Begin with the End in Mind”. This is nothing but leading a goal-oriented life. It is about setting up goals and achieving them. A person is only able to achieve success if he/she is goal-oriented. This chapter talks about setting long-term goals based on “true north” principles. Covey stresses the importance of formulating a “personal vision statement”. This will help the individual to document their perception of their vision in life. The visualization process is an important and effective tool to accomplish goals. In this chapter, he also mentions how organizations need to set goals and leaders need to guide the team in achieving the set goals. Organizational vision statements give the team a perfect direction in which they need to travel to achieve success.

Prioritizing is the next important habit that Covey talks about in this book. He says “First Things First”. Covey systematically explains a framework for prioritizing work that is intended at short-term goals, at the cost of responsibilities or jobs that appear not to be urgent, but is very important. He puts it in a simple four-quadrant format dividing it into urgent and not urgent and important and not important. Allocation of these tasks is presented as an important part of time management which in turn is an important aspect of leadership. Successful allocation of tasks, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be decided in advance.

Think Win/Win is another habit that Covey has described in this book. I feel that all leaders need to think win/win to get the maximum potential from their team. It can be said that this habit is an attitude of mind. Covey specifies that the win-win idea is not based upon negotiation – that is where most arguments end rather he says that such negotiation is the result of not correctly perceiving the likely synergy of the situation. Covey says that the more individuals practices this habit, the more committed they will become to find solutions that beyond doubt benefit both parties. Thinking win-win is a very good way to building strong leadership.

The fifth habit that Covey mentions is “Seek First to Understand and then to be Understood”. I feel that this habit is one of the most important keys for developing good interpersonal relationships. It can be in a family between husband and wife or it can be in the work environment between a manager and his team. Covey says that People become more open, more teachable, more interested in what you may have to say, and with the mutual understanding that flows from this habit. He also warns that giving out advice before thoughtfully understood a person and their situation might cause reparation and will mostly result in rejection of that advice.

The sixth habit is called the “Synergize. This habit describes a way of working in teams. To have a top-performing team, it is essential for a leader to apply effective problem-solving capacity and also have good decision-making capacity. This book suggests that when synergy is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved individually. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The last habit that Covey conveys through this book is “Sharpen the saw”. This habit focuses on balanced self-satisfaction. In this habit, Covey says that any person who aspires to be a leader needs to be like a saw that needs to be sharpened for better performance. Leaders are highly effective people and Covey says that these are the people who always take time to sharpen the saw. Covey tries to differentiate the concepts of leadership from that of management. He says that leadership focuses on the top line and Management focuses on the bottom line. While managers focus on the numbers, leaders focus on people. Management is doing things right whereas leadership is doing the right things. Team building and vision are the core of leadership.

Finally, I would like to say that this book has helped me to change myself. It has also provided incredible tools that I have never come across in my life. With this book, the path of becoming a leader looks much simpler. I feel that if any person applies these principles in their life and inculcates these seven habits, good leadership can be assured. I believe that everyone who aspires to be a leader, who wants to lead a content life, who wants to be remembered as a great leaders, needs to go through this book not once but several times.

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