In recent years Stephen R. Covey has emerged as a highly influential management thinker.  Writers on management thinkers have, however, yet to accord him a place in the league of Patel Drucker, Michael Porter, Tom Peters, and others which represents mainstream management thinking.  Covey, however, is in a class by himself as a management thinker and practioner.  But who is Covey?  

Stephen R. Covey received his MBA from Harvard and a doctorate from Brigham Young University, where he was a professor of business management and organisational behaviour for 20 years.  He is founder and Chairman of Covey Leadership Centre in Provo, Utah.  Started with a staff of two, the Covey Leadership Centre now employ 700 people and has annual revenues of over $70 million.  Effectiveness occupies the centre stage in management and rightly so.  A manager who is not effective can hardly call himself one.  But what is effectiveness? More than 30 years ago, Peter Drucker in his the Effective Executive (Heinemann 1967), defined effectiveness as the ability to get right things done and efficiency as the ability to do things right.  Both the words have their roots in Latin word efficere meaning 'accomplish',  It is essential to keep in mind the distinction between the two.Effectiveness is accomplishing the assigned tasks while efficiency is accomplishing assigned tasks in less time or cost.  

In his first book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People*, Covey calls for restoration of Character Ethic.  He made an indepth study of success literature of last 200 years and found that there has been a paradigm shift 50 years ago, after World War I, from Character Ethic during first 150 years to Personality Ethic during last 50 years.  The Personality Ethic treats success as a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviours, skills and techniques, that lubricate the process of human interaction, says Covey.  It look two paths.  One was human and public relations techniques, and the other was positive mental attitude (PMA).  

The Character Ethic is concerned with things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modestly, and the Golden Rule.  Covey, however does not suggest that the elements of the Personality Ethic - personality growth, communication skill, training and education in the field of influence strategies and positive thinking - are not beneficial, in fact sometimes they are essential for success.  What the claims is that these are secondary and not primary traits.  The Character Ethic is based on the fundamental idea that there are principles that govern human effectiveness.  Principles that govern human effectiveness.  Principles, according to Covey, are guidelines for human conduct that are proven and have enduring permanent value.  

For personal and interpersonal effectiveness, Covey thus suggests a principle - centred, character - based, 'inside-out', approach. Habit for him is the intersection of knowledge (what to do and why), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).  The Seven Habits move through a maturity continuum - dependence (you), independence (I), and interdependence (we).  His concept of effectiveness is based on what he calls P/PC Balance where P stands for production and PC stands for production capability.   

What are these Seven Habits for highly effective people? According to Covey, these are : Habit 1 : Be Proactive (Take responsibility for our action and attitudes), Habit 2. Begin with the end in mind (Begin each day with a clear understanding of your desired direction and destination), Habit 3 '.Put first things first (organise and manage time), Habit 4 : Think Win-Win (seek mutual benefit), Habit 5 : Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Cultivate the habit of communication), Habit 6 : Synergise (Create co-operation), and Habit 7 : Sharpen the saw (Develop a systematic programme for self-renewal in physical, mental,  emotional/social and spiritual areas).   

In his second book - Principle-Central Leadership** - Covey divides the subject matter into two sections : 1. Persona! and Interpersonal Effectiveness, and 2. Managerial and Organizational Development. The principle - centred leadership has four levels with key principles 1. Personal (Trustworthiness) , 2. Interpersonal (Trust) 3.  Managerial (Empowerment), and 4. Organizational (Alignment). The characterstics of principle - centred leaders are : 1. They are continually learning, 2. They are service - oriented, 3. They radiate positive energy, 4. They believe in other people, 5. They lead balanced lives, 6. They see life as an adventure, 7. They are synergistic, and 8. They exercise for self-renewal.   

Covey mentions seven deadly sins : 1.  Wealth without work, 2. Pleasure without conscience, 3. Knowledge without character, 4. Commerce (business) without morality (ethics), 5. Science without humanity, 6. Religion without sacrifice, and 7. Politics without principle. In the wilderness of changing times, Covey believes in the use of a compass which indicates the 'true north', that is, the principles enunciated by him. No one will disagree with him that there is a universal belief in fairness, kindness, dignity, charity, integrity, honesty, quality, service, and patience. Indeed this cuts accross religions, regions, and cultures. However, in the real world, opposite attributes are quite often exhibited.  

According to Covey, there are three types of power: (i) coercive (based on fear), (ii) utility (based on fairness), and (iii) accountability. He then comes up with the concept of total quality leadership, and shows the application of Seven Habits to Deming's 14 points of Total Quality.  

In the third book, First Things First,*** Covey provides a frame-work for living, loving, learning, and for learning a legacy. The fourth book, Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People****, is a daily diary of extracts from the first book. The fifth book, Living the 7 Habits is a compilation of stories of courage and inspiration arranged under the categories of individual, family, community and education, and work place. All the five books make for inspiring reading. Part evangelist and part salesman.  Covey, in essence., focuses on the development of the individual making it abundantly clear that the destiny of the individual is in his own hands.   
D.C. Misra  

*  Covey, Stephen R. (1989): The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people : Restoring the Character Ethic, London, Simon and Schuster,Reprinted 1994.  

**  Covey, Stephen R. (1990-91) : Principle-Centred Leadership,London, Simon and Schuster, Reprinted 1995.  

*** Covey, Stephen R., a Roger Merril and Rebacca R. Merril (1994),First Things First : to Live to Love, To Learn, To Leave a Leagcy,London, Simon and Schuster.  

**** Covey, Stephen R. (1994) : Daily Reflection for highly EffectivePeople, New York, Simon and schuster.  A Fireside Book.  

O Covery, Stephen R. (1999) : Living the 7 Habits : Stories of Courage and Inspiration, New York, Simon and sehuster, A Fireside book.