Even though it was originally published in 1989, you will be hard-pressed to discuss books on leadership and not have someone at least mention The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. There’s a reason for that! Over the course of his lifetime, Stephen Covey sold over 20 million books, published in over 30 languages.
In Seven Habits, Covey details the behaviors he believes foundational for a successful leader. While at this point, none of the habits should come as a surprise, sometimes it’s those very basic, almost obvious ideas that we need to be reminded of most often.
There are newer leadership books out there, but much like in literature, it’s always a good idea to go back to the classics from time to time.
Some of my favorite reminders?
Begin with the End in Mind
I. Love. This.
Even with things as basic as building a daily schedule, I find it so useful to work backwards. One key to a successful plan is knowing where you want to end up. What would you like to have accomplished when you look back on the day?
…know where you’re going so that you can better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.
Related to this is the idea that there are two options in the way your day/week/life go: by design or by default.
Let that sink in. You can either plan the way things go, or wonder what the heck happened. That applies to time, money, relationships, EVERYTHING. Even more so in this age of fast everything, things will happen with or without you. It’s in your best interest to be sure you’re steering things for yourself.
Keeping that in mind, say focused on results rather than the how. Not everything is plan-able (I wish!), but you should do your best to ensure you’re headed in the right direction even if the actual methods have to change.
Sharpen the Saw
As someone who takes pride (albeit probably an unhealthy one) in juggling a million projects, this is one of those habits that I need constant reminding of.
A musician takes great care of their instrument. An Olympian is constantly mindful of their physical well-being. It is just as vital that you preserve your own greatest asset: YOU!
In order to increase your capacity and be able to achieve those goals, there are four key areas that require your attention.
PHYSICAL = The physical dimension “involves caring effectively for our physical body.” Building endurance, flexibility, and strength via diet and exercise can have a significant impact on other areas of your life — including stress management.
SPIRITUAL = This can mean a wide range of things depending on who you ask. For me, it means prayer and journaling, but for others it might include things like spending time in nature, meditating on a Bible verse or positive mantra, or an extended yoga session. Whatever this means to you, don’t neglect it.
MENTAL = In other words, be a lifelong learner! In our ever-changing world, there is always something new to learn. And if you have access to the internet and/or a library, you have no excuse not to. Read a book or industry publication, attend a lecture, grab coffee with a mentor… There are so many ways to keep your mind sharp!
SOCIAL = As it turns out, you can’t do everything on your own. This last dimension is all about interpersonal relationships, whether that be with friends, family, coworkers, or anyone else. It’s easy to become really self-involved when you’re trying to accomplish a lot. Remember to make time to foster relationships, too.
*On a related note, you can use my 2018 printable to set up goals for yourself in these areas.
If you’re new to this idea of leadership or you just want to get back to basics, I definitely recommend that you read Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Are there any other leadership books that you would recommend to someone just starting out — well-known or not? The lifelong learner in me is dying to know!