The 1st Habit of Effective Leaders

Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has had a tremendous impact on many people, including myself. This series is looking at real life applications of these habits:

Private Victory

Habit 1: Be Proactive– Principles of Personal Vision
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind– Principles of Personal Leadership
Habit 3: Put the First Things First– Principles of Personal Management

Public Victory

Habit 4: Think Win/Win– Principles of Interpersonal Leadership
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood– Principles of Emphatic Communication
Habit 6: Synergize– Principles of Creative Cooperation


Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw– Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

It is important to note that the habits must be learned in order prescribed by the author to be effective. Covey also notes that private victory comes before public victory. Naturally, we will start with the first habit which is to be proactive. Covey teaches more than to just take initiative though that is part of being proactive. We are responsible for our lives, not victims of circumstance. Our behavior is the result of our decisions, not our conditions. The author also teaches about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.

Learning to have an impact beyond my team was a lesson learned that would have a huge impact on my effectiveness as a leader. My Circle of Concern was everything that had an effect on my business results. This would include the members of my team, other departments and supervisors, our corporate office, our vendors, and even the local utilities. The circle of influence is what I felt was in my control. For most of us, our circle of concern is larger than our circle of influence. I quickly learned though that my circle of influence needed to include more than just my team. Proactive leaders take steps to gradually influence more and more in order to improve results. How do increase your influence? Start by looking at the outside factors that are impacting your results. Use the 80-20 rule to determine what battles are worth the fight, then start reaching out to those groups. Work together to find improved procedures, inspections, and PM’s. Form cross-functional and multi-department teams to address issues that are having an adverse impact on your business results. Reach out to vendors that are not meeting your needs instead of complaining that they are always a problem. You have increased your circle of influence as soon as you have a positive impact on those who do not formally report to you.

Today’s leaders need to be able to influence more than the team that reports to them. You will need to be able to influence other managers, other teams, and even people in other companies to reach your goals. As Covey teaches, act or be acted upon.

About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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