Effectiveness to Greatness

Deep within us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution –

 to really matter, to really make a difference.  Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey is an internationally acclaimed and respected leadership authority, family expert, teacher, author and organisational consultant.  He is the author of numerous books including:

  • First Things First
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
  • The Courage to Change
  • The 8th Habit
  • Everyday Greatness
  • Principle-Centered Leadership


He has focused his working life on helping people and organisations to develop principle based leadership to propel and sustain individuals and organisations into the future.  When people build strong character they function from their values and make choices that optimise their results.  The choices we make determines our circle of influence.

Covey says that between the external stimulus and our internal response there is a point of choice.  It is this choice point that determines the neural pathway we will run and thus the outcome we will create.  When we choose an attitude of well-being, respect, abundance and care we “filter” the stimuli coming into our neurology in a positive way and therefore we are more able to achieve positive results in our lives.

In addition, when we make these choices of behaviour other people respond more positively to us and our circle of concern reduces and our circle of influence expands. The more expansive our circle of influence is the happier and more productive we are.

Reactive / Negative Attitudes               Positive/ Proactive  Attitudes

Circle of Concern





Circle of Influence




Ninety percent of all leadership failures are character failures – SC


Covey identifies five cancerous behaviours that keep people functioning at lower levels of trust and influence.  These five cancerous behaviours are:

  • Criticizing
  • Complaining
  • Comparing
  • Competing
  • Contending


One of his ground breaking works is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  These 7 habits are:

1          BE PROACTIVE – Principles of Personal Vision

  • Focus on your circle of influence – the things you can do something about
  • Take responsibility for your life

2          BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND – Principles of Personal Leadership

  • Develop your vision for your life and philosophy for how you want to live your life
  • Identify your roles and goals in your life areas, and visualize your desired outcomes

3          PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST – Principles of Personal Management

  • Manage yourself by putting first things first.
  • Organise and execute around balanced priorities

4          THINK WIN-WIN – Principles of Interpersonal Leadership

  • Adopt an abundance mentality
  • Take the win-win approach

5          SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD – Principles of Empathic Communication

  • Employ ethos, pathos, and logos – personal credibility, empathy and logic.
  • Influence others by example

6          SYNERGIZE – Principles of Creative Cooperation

  • Understand the essence of synergy –the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
  • Value the differences between people

7          SHARPEN THE SAW – Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

  • Balance and renew – physically, socially/emotionally, mentally, and spiritually
  • Rejuvenate your spirit – Meditate, pray, read uplifting books, spend time in nature


True success and enduring happiness occurs as you

integrate basic principles of effective living into your basic character.


Covey states that if you want minor, incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behaviour and attitudes.  But if you want to make significant, quantum-leap improvements, work on paradigms. The power of an accurate paradigm is that it first explains the world, then it guides behaviour.

He says that in our knowledge age we need to work from a whole person paradigm which reflects the four basic needs of every person: To live (physical), to love (emotional), to learn (cognitive) and to leave a legacy (spirit).  When we do this we can achieve “everyday greatness” – which encompasses fulfillment, passionate execution and significant contribution.

Everyday greatness is a way of being that challenges us to make three important choices everyday:

  1. The choice to act – our energy
  2. The choice of purpose – our destination
  3. The choice for principles – the means for attaining our goals.

To achieve everyday greatness there are some key attributes that he identifies:

  • Search for Meaning – People with a meaningful life are those who have formed their thoughts and actions around a purpose that makes their life of most worth.  The search for meaning is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • Contribution
    • Charity
    • Attention
  • Taking Charge – Nothing of substance will happen until we take charge of our life and accept responsibility for bringing our dreams to fruition.  Taking charge is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • Responsibility
    • Courage
    • Discipline
  • Starting Within – before we can achieve success in the world around us we must first achieve success within ourselves – it is about who we are.  Starting within is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • · Integrity
    • · Humility
    • · Gratitude
  • Creating the Dream – one of the greatest joys in life is to be creative; to put yourself in to something innovative and worthwhile, and then to see it come to fruition.  Creating the dream is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • Vision
    • Innovation
    • Quality
  • Teaming with Others – we live in an interdependent world and therefore we must learn how to live, work and team with others.  The people who get the most out of life value, celebrate and capitalise on the wide range of differences.  Teaming with others is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • Respect
    • Empathy
    • Unity
  • Overcoming Adversity – how we choose to respond to adversity can make or break our ability to accomplish the purpose we choose to pursue.  Fortunately most of the opposition in our life works in our favour.  It challenges us. It teaches us. It causes us to reach a little higher and dig a little deeper.  Overcoming adversity is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • Adaptability
    • Magnanimity
    • Perseverance
  • Blending the Pieces – one of the greatest demands today is dealing with the competing demands that are placed on us.  There are so many choices and it seems like there is so little time.  We must continue to find ways to simplify by focusing only on that which matters most and by taking the opportunity to refresh our minds and bodies.  Blending the pieces is achieved through developing the following principles:
    • Balance
    • Simplicity
    • Renewal

Stephen Covey epitomised and lived the journey from effectiveness to greatness and the world has been blessed by his presence.  In his own words, he lived (physical), loved (emotional), learned and taught others (cognitive) and has left the world an amazing legacy (spirit) for which I am particularly grateful.

I would be delighted if you would share with me your thoughts on the contribution that Stephen Covey has made in your life.  Please email me at c.egle@ilad.com.au


Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important

Is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant – Covey

Posted in On Leadership