Stephen Covey’s groundbreaking best-seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”, first published in 1989, was one of the very first books that outlined the importance of emotional and relational competencies for both personal and professional success. It is with homage to Stephen Covey – and drawing directly from our 2015 book “Language and the Pursuit of Leadership Excellence: How Extraordinary Leaders Build Relationships, Shape Culture and DriveBreakthrough Results” – that we share our list below.
Chalmers Brothers and Vinay Kumar.
Habit 1: Highly effective leaders are self-aware, in 3 particular ways: 1) They understand that they are the authors of their own interpretations, explanations and beliefs, and that these interpretations, explanations and beliefs ultimately drive their Actions and their Results; 2) They are aware of how their moods and emotions impact how they think, act and react; and 3) They understand how their physical bodies impact – and are impacted by – their language and their moods.
Habit 2: Highly effective leaders engage in conversations with intentionality and purpose, and are mindful of their language. Effective leaders know that language generates and creates, and that strength in leadership = strength in designing and convening effective conversations. These leaders continually seek to surface“missing conversations.” They fully understand the power of conversations to bring forth 2 important types ofResults: quantitative Results (productivity, profitability, achievement of certain metrics) and qualitative Results(workplace culture, levels of trust and cohesion, quality of relationships, public identity).
Habit 3: Highly effective leaders make powerfulDeclarations. They know that leadership is an act of creating the future and that as leaders they are charged with creating a certain future for their organization, bringing forth something out of nothing. They declare the values, standards, purpose, vision and goals that serve to orient the organization on its journey to desired outcomes – and they do so even in the face of uncertainty regarding exactly how they will actually be materialized. And when something isn’t working, they take the courageous stand of declaring a breakdown – “This is not working, this is not OK” – thereby creating an inflection point, opening the pathway for the team to then make the important course corrections moving forward. It is through these declarations that these leaders turn breakdowns into breakthroughs.
Habit 4: Highly effective leaders have a growth mindset. They regularly open themselves to new learning, engage in new learning and encourage others to do the same. They understand that new learning is essential in times of ongoing change, and is a hallmark of all high-performing organizations.
Habit 5: Highly effective leaders think both/and as well as either/or. They understand that a great many organizational and leadership challenges call for “leveraging polarities”rather than “solving problems.” They look for and find the underlying polarities in key situations, and convene conversations with stakeholders in order to 1) identify the up-side benefits of successfully leveraging both of the given poles, and 2) create action plans that lead to these benefits being achieved and sustained.
Habit 6: Highly effective leaders author powerful, grounded Assessments (interpretations, judgments), and they share their standards and the Assertions (facts) they used to generate theAssessments. They value and seek multiple perspectives, as they know that we live in an interpretive world. They fully understand that the ways we interpret and the Assessments we generate have a dramatic impact on the possibilities we are able to see, the Actions we then take, and the Results we ultimately produce.
Habit 7: Highly effective leaders hold their beliefs and paradigms as beliefs and paradigms, not as The Truth. They understand that beliefs and paradigms“orient” us toward certain Actions and Results, and away from others. Because of this, they are open to and take the time to review and update their beliefs, their paradigms, their ways of seeing things, their assumptions about “how things are”.
Habit 8: Highly effective leaders know that shared understanding is a pre-requisite for shared commitment, and because of this they “check their listening”, “check others’ listening”, and encourage others to do the same. They know that listening is active interpretation, not passive receipt of objective information. They value alignment, and they understand that alignment = shared interpretation and shared meaning.
Habit 9: Highly effective leaders understand their organizations as networks of commitments, people making and managing promises to each other. Because of this, they make clear and powerful requests & offers, and they enter into clear commitments. They know these are the actual “nuts and bolts” of collaboration needed to create the desired future. They avoid using silent expectations and assumptions as the basis for coordinating Action, and they teach others to do the same.
Habit 10: Highly effective leaders are outcome-focused. They remain focused on the desired future, the desired Results, and thus they also know when to say no. They are not tempted by “shiny objects” or “flavors-of-the-month”. They are disciplined and they stay the course, focusing on what matters, and saying no to the rest.
Habit 11: Highly effective leaders hold themselves and others accountable. They focus on commitment management rather than time management, they manage 100% of their commitments, and they teach others to do the same. They know the connections between managing commitments, public identity and trust-building. And they understand trust as the necessary foundation for extraordinary relationships, teamwork and the ability to collaboratively create the desired future.
Habit 12: Highly effective leaders find time for silence, reflection and self-care. They understand that whatever Actions we take in the world, our physical bodies are the vehicles through which those Actions flow. They know the ways our bodies are inter-related with our moods/emotions and our language, and they therefore are purposeful about maintaining a healthy body, healthy mind and healthy emotions.