The world lost a great man yesterday. Dr. Stephen Covey was one of the most optimistic people I knew. He saw the potential in people and created systems and processes that could help anyone become more effective. Many of the other psychologists I met said he wrote pop psychology and thought he over simplified things for the common man. I thought he was brilliant in his ability to simplify was a reflection of the great potential he saw in people. Stephen loved everyone and his writing provided many people with a framework for becoming a highly effective person. While others would have stopped after his initial success, he considered it important to continue developing life strategies for people who never had enough time or enough personal growth. His lectures could take you through a personal revolution in one day. By consistently honing the skills he provided, you had a ladder for growing and becoming an effective serving leader.
I’d like to share some of the things I learned from Stephen. The first thing I learned was to approach life on a proactive basis. Stephen shared a vision of the world that anyone could create a stronger vision for themselves. He wasn’t a person who believed in going half way in any way. He shared the idea that without strong vision, people perish. His writing and his passion were something that I found refreshing in the world of academia. This insight by itself would have taken his teaching and impact to a different level but having built this foundation he then proceeded to give you the tools you might need to create a better you.
The second thing I learned from Stephen was the ability to simplify his thinking to an understandable level. Think about the titles of the different chapters of his books. From Private Victory to Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, and Sharpening the Saw, these chapter titles made his material easy to share with others while always reminding the reader of the required work to become more effective. He broke down the development process to several simple ideas that you could work on with others. His thinking always made you think and his thinking always made you work. His books could be read several times and each time it could have a slightly different meaning to the reader. To me, this is what made his books so wonderful. Every time you read them you were given a new experience. I loved giving his books to others; I knew once they started, they would be touched by the care that went into Covey’s thinking and approach to life.
The final thing I learned from Stephen was the willingness to fight for what he believed in. I remember as a young leader asking why we didn’t have Stephen come in to talk to our group. I had several hundred sales professionals on my team and I thought his material could lend well to the task ahead of changing how we did business moving into the future. On the way up the corporate ladder I had found his books helpful in helping me create the life I wanted for myself and my leadership teams. My human resources person then informed me that values training had little place in our sales training. God forbid that we would try to help our team members become all they can be. I was floored. I was shocked, God forbid that my business development teams could become self-sufficient. I reviewed the material I was suggesting and darn if she wasn’t right. Stephen was suggesting no less than a personal revolution for people who chose to learn his life philosophy and strategies. After this, I chose to leave the company. Why would I want to have my teams be serving leaders in their approach to business?
Well, if you’re still reading this, you know why I chose this path. I believe serving leaders make better people, and better people make a better community, and better communities lead to better countries and better countries lead to a better world. I know Stephen believed this was his life’s mission. I will follow the path Dr. Stephen Covey shared with me many years ago and I will continue to share many of his philosophies with the next generation of serving leaders around the world. I will miss Stephen’s new books and lectures, his growing spirit and his ability to continually challenge our thinking on a person’s role in the world. I would say rest in peace Stephen but I have a good feeling when you get to heaven, your time invested here will put you in a position of honor with many others who have shared your understanding of mankind’s greatness and have strived to help others have the lives of their dreams for them and their family.