I am deeply saddened by the passing of Stephen Covey. I believe that Covey’s most significant contribution to our culture is his commitment to the ethical and moral dimension of effectiveness. At some point in his writings (I can’t find where, but I can hear it over and over again in my 7 Habits Book on Tape), Covey contrasts his approach with Dale Carnegie’s. He writes that (and I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t find the source right now) Carnegie wrote about How to Win Friends and Influence People – how to get what you want out of life. Covey dug much deeper to write about how to become a good person, someone worthy of winning friends and influencing people.
For example, in Seven Habits, Covey writes:
“When we make withdrawals from the Emotional Bank Account, we need to apologize and we need to do it sincerely. Great deposits come in the sincere words:
‘I was wrong.’
‘That was unkind of me…’
…It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s hear rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize (page 197).”
It’s obvious that, when doing something wrong, taking what Covey would call a “withdrawal from the Emotional Bank Account,” that a person should apologize. Covey’s emphasis, however is on the sincerity. The apology must be sincere.
This focus on integrity and living according to one’s own solid principles, is Covey’s hallmark, and what distinguishes him from so many other so-called self-help gurus.
Most telling is Covey’s humble religiosity, which he openly revealed at the end of Seven Habits:
“As I conclude this book, I would like to share my own personal conviction concerning what I believe to be the source of correct principles. I believe that correct principles are natural laws, and that God, the Creator and Father of us all, is the source of them, and also the source of our conscience. I believe that to the degree people live by this inspired conscience, they will grow to fulfill their natures; to the degree that they do not, they will not rise above the animal plane” (page 319).
Statements like this by prominent Mormons don’t sell books. However, this idea was so critical to Covey’s
weltanschauung that he could not possibly have written 7 Habits without sharing it with his readers.