has written a number of books on leadership and management.
It's now been 20 years since it was first published, but Stephen R Covey's groundbreaking book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refuses to go off global bestseller lists.
Often recognised as one of the most influential books ever written, the self-help title has sold more than 15 million copies in 38 languages and catapulted the author to a lucrative public speaker status and one who travels the world inspiring leaders and managers.
But Covey, who is also the co-founder of professional-services firm FranklinCovey with offices in Dubai, refuses to take credit for the seven habits that has made him, his book and his company a force to reckon with.
"I am simply the teacher," he says. "The principles found in 7 Habits are universal, timeless, and found throughout the world.
"I am, at heart, a teacher, a writer, an author. I am also an avid learner who loves to continually learn. I see myself as someone who is trying to live, learn and teach principles."
Covey, who is a regular visitor to the UAE, will conduct a day-long seminar on "Rebuilding trust in regional organisations" on Monday along with his son, Stephen MR Covey, also an author, at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai.
"There is no doubt that trust profoundly affects the bottom line," he says. "It is at the heart of creating true collaboration, synergy, innovation and building positive relationships. With trust we can find unique, creative solutions to problems and also create new opportunities."
There are no organisations or places that cannot benefit from improving trust, he adds. "The need is common throughout the world, not just in the UAE. It is the catalyst that keeps everything moving and working smoothly and effectively."
When it comes to leadership, one of the biggest lessons managers need to learn is "the power of having principles" – an example Covey cites as to why his 1989 book is still applicable even in these times. "The 7 Habits are still relevant today and will stand the test of time because they are based on timeless, universal principles. The message today is perhaps even more relevant in the midst of a crisis," he says.
"The principles remind us that we must be the creative force of our own lives otherwise we risk being blown by the winds of change. Being centred on principles gives us a compass from which to effectively navigate from."
The only aspects that have changed, he adds, is "the sheer speed of change and the impact of globalisation".
"We are, indeed, living in a flat world. The age of top-down management is gone. You cannot afford to have one or a few people at the top making all the decisions. You have to create more flat organisations where people are empowered to make decisions, use their creativity and be involved, engaged in problems or opportunities," he advises.
"It is up to each of us to respond to the changes. The challenge is to not only be effective as individuals and organisations but to transcend to greatness."
For this purpose, Covey says he wrote The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness, a sequel, published in 2004. "Organisations have the opportunity to create a culture of greatness by institutionalising principles into their systems, processes and structures. The 8th Habit is all about this process," he explains.
"We enable greatness by empowering people to find their voice – to fulfil their passion, talents and conscience towards a worthy purpose. Most people feel that they are not allowed to fully contribute their talents and skills – they feel controlled and constrained. You enable greatness when you unleash talent and help people fulfil their potential."
FranklinCovey, of which Covey serves as vice-chair, is an Utah-based company that specialises in time management training and assessment services for organisations. It has offices in 62 countries including the UAE and was formed in 1997 after a merger between Franklin Quest, the company that created a time management system called the Franklin Planner, and Covey's Covey Leadership Center.
"I enjoy a leadership role on the board. But most part of my time is spent teaching, travelling for presentations, writing and doing research," he says. "I also make plenty of time for my family – they are my priority.".
The-self help industry today is extremely broad, adds Covey, with many principles which are only "trendy for the moment".
For those looking for resources, he advises discernment. "Evaluate the content to see if it's based on universal principles, if it has stood the test of time. You also need to follow your conscience," he says.
"I am a great believer in the ability of people to take initiative to develop themselves. Our learning is something we each have to take responsibility for."
To register for the event, call 04 336 5161 or visit www.leaderspresents.com
Covey's four imperatives for leaders and managers
- Inspire trust: You do this by modelling, by being a person of high character who can be personally trusted. You also inspire trust by trusting associates in the organisation, empowering them with opportunities to be engaged, to make decisions, to contribute their best thinking or talents. You will find that you will be much better at finding creative solutions, especially in tough times.
- Clarify purpose: Share a clear vision with your organisation and teams. Your vision needs to be tied to the needs of all your most important stakeholders who are your associates, clients, board members, etc. Everyone needs to understand the most important goals for them to focus and execute on.
- Align systems: To achieve your vision and your goals, you must align your systems, structures and processes to enable results. So often goals are simply not met because of misalignment. The end result is often mediocre if not altogether poor performance. This can be especially demoralising to people who want to produce but find themselves constrained.
- Unleash talent: Great leadership doesn't come from the top-down. You have to get the best from everyone by developing their capabilities and capacities for self-leadership. Empower people, co-develop goals and jobs-to-be-done with them and set up accountability and rewards.