Habits for a lifetime

Habits for a lifetime


The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness To Greatness” by Stephen R. Covey, 2004 (432 pages).

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2006 (currently out of stock in Europe)


Have your found your own personal voice, and can you use it to sing your songs? Moreover, can you help others find their voices and start building a choir where all the voices form a harmony? Finding what gives our lives personal significance for each of us implies taking a good, long look at ourselves and our situation. It gives us the option to make good, level-headed choices in the different areas of work and life. It does not permit us to take the easier, reactive approach that will make us the product of other people’s weaknesses.

What does it take to arrive at a clear voice? We need to get to that sweet spot that lies in the intersection of our talents, our passions, our conscience and what we can give and do for others. Once we have found which roles, or should I say callings (in the non-religious sense), lie in this intersection, we have the voice that should guide us. This approach of self-actualization while serving needs of others will demand changes not only in ourselves, but in the way organizations are run and leadership is carried out.

Shift that Paradigm

A paradigm shift is required to get communities and organizations that sing in harmony. All too often, what we find in organizations and companies is a persistent industrial age approach to people. Do we see employees as resources (costs)? Do we manage (control) people as if they were things, or dogs to be conditioned using treats and stick? The more we employ this industrial age paradigm, the more we create an environment devoid of initiative, creativity and true accountability.

The industrial age management by control paradigm lends itself to creating employees, who feel neither appreciated, fulfilled nor motivated. Employees easily feel that they are no more than yet another cog in the machine and that the safest bet is to stay in a well-defined place, keep their heads down and fawn on the manager. So much talent and potential is wasted this way.

An alternative paradigm insists on seeing people as people: intelligence, skills, emotions and conscience. Only by allowing employees to engage their whole person will we be able to get true commitment to our initiatives and goals. Employees who are led as whole people instead of controlled like things have reason to feel appreciated, motivated and to form the desire to contribute to our goals.


As part of changing away from the traditional Industrial age paradigm, the one-way old-school top-down leadership model relying on rules, efficiency and control needs to be replaced. We should look at how leaders can help followers establish their own voices and how we can make sure to engage the sum total of talents in our companies.

To do so, we must model the change we want to see, and invite people to make the journey with us. In modelling it is important that we remain trustworthy; in terms of our character, our competence and our attitude towards others. Acting with anything other than authenticity and consistency will surely backfire, and set us back far in terms of people believing in the shift in leadership style.

The leader is an enabler for people’s talent, making room and clearing roadblocks – the leader is no longer an appointed commander or utilizer of people as things. Within the agreed goals and frameworks, people can self-manage, self-control and work in ways that play to their voices. That is true empowerment and releases people’s ideas, motivation and commitment.


The prevalence of the Industrial Age paradigm in this day and age of knowledge work, free agency, and millennials everywhere is worrisome. People have never been and never will be things. I expect more and more we will see people opt out of being treated as cogs in machines, if they have the opportunity to pursue activities in tune with their own voice. It will be the loss for companies stuck in the industrial age and the gain for those companies and leaders who understand how to engage all facets of the people they work with.