A Review of a Business Classic

by Dr. Donna Roberts

I was cleaning out closets the other day and I came across some “oldies but goodies.” So of course, instead of finishing with the closets, I curled up with these old friends and read them again. I have to say, some were better this second time around and most still had relevance all these years later.

While countless new business books come out every day, sometimes it serves us well to revisit the “new” wisdom of yesterday. Stephen Covey, bestselling author of the iconic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, also penned a thoughtful approach to leadership that is … well … timeless.

In this book Covey identifies eight discernible characteristics of what he terms “principle-centered leaders”—those leaders who manage their lives and their organizations according to fundamental principles that are universally valid.

According to Covey these extraordinary leaders possess the following traits:

1. They are continually learning.
continually expand their skills

2. They are service oriented.
see what they do in life as a mission
accept the responsibility to care for and sometimes carry others

3. They radiate positive energy.
enthusiastic, hopeful and believing
seek to be a peacemaker, a harmonizer and to undo or reverse destructive energy

4. They believe in other people.
find the unseen potential in all people in order to engender an environment conducive to growth

5. They lead balanced lives.
possess a sense of appropriateness and equilibrium
think in terms of continuums, priorities and hierarchies

6. They see life as an adventure.
capable of adaptation
their security lies in initiative, resourcefulness, creativity, courage and stamina rather than retreat into their comfort zone

7. They are synergistic.
believe that the interplay between parts produces more intense, imaginative energy than the parts alone can produce
catalysts for change and dedicated to utilizing the contributions of all members of a team

8. They exercise for self-renewal.
regularly exercise the four dimensions of being—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual

Like many of his contemporaries, Covey considers the essential components of an effective leader to be less about the objective application of management strategies and techniques and more about the genuine integrity and dedication of human beings to each other and a common purpose. His philosophy opposes much of the hard-edged technique based programs for success that constitutes much of the early literature in favor of the kinder, gentler, more human orientation that has become common aspect of leadership development.

I believe perspectives of this nature are immensely important and all too often ignored or given only lip-service in the realm of large organizations. In spite of the expert execution of either the newest or tried-and-true management techniques, the synergy of human interaction will determine the comprehensive success of failure of a system.


Donna Roberts is a native upstate New Yorker who lives and works in Europe. She holds a Ph.D., specializing in the field of Media Psychology. When she is researching or writing she can usually be found at her computer buried in rescue cats.