Article Title: Stephen Covey on Leadership -- Interview by Sharif Khan

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Article Title:
Stephen Covey on Leadership -- Interview by Sharif Khan

Article Description:
While making a rare public appearance in Toronto at the 
Mississauga Living Arts Centre, world-respected leadership 
authority Dr. Stephen R. Covey granted Sharif Khan a
personal interview.

Additional Article Information:
1770 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
Distribution Date and Time: Wed Feb 08 12:10:14 EST 2006

Written By:     Sharif Khan
Copyright:      2006
Contact Email:  mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]

Article URL: 

For more free-reprint articles by this Author, please visit:


Stephen Covey on Leadership -- Interview by Sharif Khan
Copyright © 2006 Sharif Khan
Psychology of the Hero Soul

"The call and need of a new era is for greatness. It's for 
fulfillment, passionate execution and significant contribution." 
- Stephen R. Covey, from The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to 

Making a rare public appearance in Toronto at the Mississauga 
Living Arts Centre, world-respected leadership authority and 
author of the international bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly 
Effective People, named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of 
the Twentieth Century, Dr. Stephen R. Covey spoke on his latest 
book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness to a packed 

Having taught principle-centered leadership for over four 
decades, this living legend and world icon, with his quiet energy 
and grace, epitomized a call to greatness and earned the respect 
of the audience -- standing as a grandfather figure for 
unleashing human potential in many generations.

A hero to millions, Dr. Covey is known the world over for his 
landmark work around helping people take profound ideas, 
philosophies, and principles and distilling them into easy-to-use 
daily habits that anyone can apply. In his inspirational 
presentation at the Living Arts Centre, he conveyed simple yet 
very powerful gems of wisdom that I found practical and useful. 
For example, if you want your children to develop a love of 
learning and never have to rag on them again for not doing their 
homework and not getting better grades, simply ask them when they 
return from school, "Teach me what you've learned today." By 
using this one simple habit, Covey claims he's never had a 
problem encouraging his children to learn because teaching is the 
best way to learn.

Another gem he talked about is the habit of seeking to understand 
before being understood through empathic listening. In the 
audience of over 800 people, he asked how many people had any 
formal training on listening; only 13 hands went up revealing 
just how ego-centric of a me-me-me culture we live in. Covey 
related how many Native Indian tribes use what's called the 
Talking Stick which is used in all meetings where the person 
holding the Talking Stick is the only person allowed to speak 
until he or she feels understood; when the possessor of the 
Talking Stick feels completely understood, then, and only then, 
is the Talking Stick passed on to the next person. This creates 
an incredible understanding and synergy among the team. Every 
business would do well to have a Talking Stick!

Covey then went on to the crux of his message which is the 8th 
Habit of becoming an island of excellence in a sea of mediocrity 
by finding one's voice and helping others to find theirs. 
According to Covey, the main problem is that businesses are still 
trapped in the old paradigm of Industrial Age thinking even 
though we're well into the Knowledge Worker Age. What's required 
is a new paradigm he calls the "whole body paradigm" of 
integrating body, mind, heart, and spirit which he respectively 
equates to the principles of discipline, vision, passion, and 
conscience. The Industrial Age is still very much focused on the 
body (things, systems, structures, procedures, efficiency, 
bottom-line). But Covey estimates that approximately 80 percent 
of all the value added to goods and services now comes from 
knowledge work versus things. Twenty years ago that number was 
the inverse: only 20 percent.

So the key is not behavior – it's the map. The key is the 
accuracy of the map. Once paradigm shifts the behavior will also 
shift. Covey clearly illustrated this point by asking everyone to 
close their eyes and point "North." When he asked us to open 
our eyes and look around, I noticed everyone was pointing in 
different directions! In a similar vein, the majority of 
organizations have their people pointing in different directions; 
sighting a recent Harris Poll, Covey states that "only 37 percent 
of workers say they have a clear understanding of what their 
organization is trying to achieve and why." No one knows where 
true "North" is. There is no moral compass, no conscience, no 
guiding spirit.

Part of the solution, according to Covey, is to have a 
transcendent goal, what he calls a WIG or Wildly Important Goal, 
that serves a greater purpose. Only once this goal is clearly 
communicated to everyone in an organization can quantum 
improvements begin to happen in the workplace.

Here is my interview with Dr. Covey revealing his latest insights 
from his most recent book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to 

What sacrifices have you made to be where you are today?

I have worked very hard to dedicate my personal and professional 
life to principlecentered living. I am driven by a passion and 
conscience to spread understanding for principles and how to 
apply them to reach greatness. To that extent, there is no 
sacrifice – only a passionate, relentless commitment to my work, 
family, community and church to make a lasting difference.

What in your opinion is the most important attribute of a leader 
and why?

I believe the most important attribute for a leader is being 
principle-centered. Centering on principles that are universal 
and timeless provides a foundation and compass to guide every 
decision and every act. I've based my life's work on promoting 
principles and teaching the power that resides in principle-
centered leadership. Principles are not my invention; they are 
self-evident and are found throughout the world. If you look at 
all enduring philosophies, religions and thoughts, you will find 
principles such as integrity, compassion, trust, honesty, 
accountability and others at their core. I simply translated 
these principles into a framework of habits, which when followed 
with consistency and frequency transforms one's character and 
allows one to earn the moral authority necessary for enduring 

I must also clarify the definition of leadership, which is sadly 
and narrowly defined as position, title, status or rank. This is 
formal authority and not necessarily leadership. Through years of 
study, teaching and working with people all over the world, 
from all walks of life, I have determined that leadership is: 
Communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that 
they come to see it in themselves. It is the influence we have 
with others to help them discover their own voice, to find their 
own purpose, to make their unique contribution, and to release 
their potential, that truly defines leadership. Thus, leadership 
extends to the many personal and professional roles we play – as 
workers, parents, children, teachers, students, swamis, you name 
it – and the choice we make to live by principles to help others 
find their voice.

In your book, 8th Habit, you talk about finding one's voice and 
developing one's "unique personal significance." How does one 
begin doing that?

To achieve greater heights each person must be challenged to find 
their voice – their unique personal significance and purposeful 
meaning – and help others to find theirs. Voice lies at the nexus 
of talent, passion, need and conscience. When anyone engages in 
work that taps into their talent and fuels their passion – that 
rises out of a great need in the world that they feel drawn by 
conscience to meet – therein lies their voice in life. The 8th 
Habit is all about how to find your voice and help others to 
find theirs.

What leader do you really admire and why?

One immediate leader who comes to mind is Muhammad Yunus, founder 
of the Grameen Bank. His story is one that illustrates the path 
to finding one's voice and helping others find theirs. Muhammad 
saw a need, felt his conscience move him to try and fill that 
need and applied his talents and passion to fill it. In the 
process, he found his voice and helped others to find theirs.

Muhammad wanted to help his impoverished fellow citizens in 
Bangladesh. He met a woman who made bamboo stools only to make 
two U.S. pennies each day. He inquired about her work and found 
that the woman had no money to buy the necessary bamboo, so she 
was forced to borrow money from a trader on condition that she 
sell him her finished product at a price he dictated. This poor 
woman in essence was held hostage by this trader.

This woman was not alone, there was an entire village of 42 hard 
working people working in unbearable circumstances and Muhammad 
calculated that it only required $27 U.S. dollars to help them 
out. He immediately gave the money to the people and told them 
it was a loan to be re-paid when they were able.

Muhammad even went further to ask the local bank to loan these 
villagers additional money and offered himself as a guarantor. 
Much to the skepticism and surprise of the bankers, the villagers 
paid every penny back on several loans.

Muhammad eventually expanded this loan program by creating his 
own microcredit lending institution called the Grameen Bank, so 
he could help numerous villages.

Grameen Bank now works with more than 46,000 villages giving 
micro-loans, lending approximately half a billion dollars a year 
to empower the poor (96% of whom are women) to produce and sell 
their goods and build housing. So far, the bank has assisted 3.7 
million people. The micro-credit movement has now spread 
throughout the world.

What advice would you give youth who will become future leaders 
of tomorrow?

In my 8th Habit book I share the idea that everyone chooses one 
of two roads in life, whether you're older or younger, man or 
woman, rich or poor. The most traveled road is the one that takes 
us to mediocrity and the other less traveled road takes us to 
greatness and meaning. The first road limits us and prevents us 
from realizing our full potential. This road is often the quick-
fix or short-cut approach to life. It often lures us to it when 
we don't take accountability for ourselves or see ourselves 
as victims. My advice to the youth is to avoid the road of 
mediocrity. It's probably hard for them to see into the longterm, 
but if they will try to see themselves as human beings with vast 
potential, and see that next to life itself their greatest gift 
is choice – they can choose their responses to whatever comes to 
them in life, and take responsibility for their choices, their 
behaviors, their feelings and choose to create their future.

My son, Sean, wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens 
to help [young people] become their best selves. He speaks 
wonderfully to the youth (much better than I), and I would 
recommend his book to anyone wanting to start good habits 
at a young age.

Sharif Khan (; [EMAIL PROTECTED]) is 
a freelance writer, motivational speaker, coach, and author of 
Psychology of the Hero Soul, an inspirational book on awakening 
the hero within and developing people’s leadership potential. 
He provides inspirational keynotes and leadership seminars and 
also helps companies develop empowering content through his 
copywriting services. To contact Sharif directly, call 
(416) 417-1259.



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