10 Habits for Highly Effective Leaders

(Adapted from Steven Covey’s “7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE” and enriched by Sensei)

Habit #1 Respond rather than React:

To be proactive means to act in advance and to act on things rather than letting them act on us. It states that, between stimulus and response, there is space which is called freedom. Being response-able means we choose our response; and there are only two to choose from;

  1. Productive; or
  2. Unproductive.

So choose well!

Habit #2 Have a Purpose:

It is important to have a mission, to ask, “what do I want to achieve with this gift called life?’ An excellent mechanism which we strongly suggest is a lifeline showing your progress to date and a letter to yourself. In this letter, talk to yourself in very personal terms about what has disappointed you, what you like about your life, what you’re proud of, what you hope to achieve and what at the end of the day will make you feel proud in terms of having a full and effective life.

As with anything else, if we don’t know where we’re going, we’re likely to end up somewhere else. If we don’t stand for something, we’re likely to fall for anything. Having a mission, a sense of what you want to achieve, gives your life both direction and makes it possible to prioritise as you will recognise a distraction for what it is.

Habit #3 Spend Time Wisely:

Organisations live life as if money is the scarce resource, it isn’t! Money is available if value can be delivered. Time however gets spent only once and the return on investment on offer is variable at best. Time to think, to converse and develop ideas together is the scarcest time of all and we need to learn to pay attention to how we spend our time.

There are four types of time; Quadrant 1 is urgent and important. Life will donate these emergencies. They will come in the form of obligations; boss’ requests; customer emergencies; and the like. These have to be responded to and will take a fair share of our time. Obviously procrastinating on these is sheer stupidity.

Perhaps the most important chunk of time is Quadrant 2 time, which is important, but not urgent. Whenever we don’t have an urgency simmering, we should put all of our energies into proactive, preventive Quadrant 2 time. These are activities that add value to either your business goals or your life goals.

We recommend that you take one week as your planning horizon. Go through that week and see where your time is actually going. I will guarantee that you will be surprised at how much time tends to slip through our fingers and fall through cracks that we don’t even notice. Ensure that some Quadrant 2 proactive time is going into each of these categories.

Habit #4 Work towards success for all:

This means to behave with the perspective that ‘I get what I want, by giving you what you need’. Only thus can I create relationships and interactions that are goal furthering rather than stress inducing. This way I don’t have to look over my shoulder, but can look forward towards my vision.

Habit #5 Walk a mile in their shoes:

Seek first to understand before you try to be understood. Is the Covey habit and it is one that we fully endorse.

Remember, the most popular word in the English language is I, followed by Me and My.

Everyone wishes to be understood first. Rather than a wasteful and futile ego contest, if I extend understanding sincerely and empathetically, I am more likely to receive that understanding back from other people.

Habit #6 The even better if, third alternative:

Most people are motivated to do a great job, their intent is usually positive even if their stance and behaviour can appear otherwise. Most interactions end up being a compromise, this usually means that ‘I disagree with you; you disagree with me, so we each manipulate each other and see how much we can get out of it’.

The ‘Even Better If’ alternative is a different approach. It means you try to understand not only the content of what they are saying, but also what they mean, their intent. Looking beyond the words to seek the meaning and intent enables you to share your positive intent with them and then you can try to transcend any differences. We focus on the problem and on principles, not positions or personalities, certainly not on one-upmanship. This way the bringing together of our energies, called ‘synergy’, produces a higher quality solution. These habits help take us from independence to interdependence.

Habit #7 Constant Continuous improvement:

We suggest that you see your life as made up of four dimensions: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual.

  • By Physical we mean our; health and wellbeing; material sustenance; money; material advancement etc.
  • By Emotional we mean our relationship with ourselves (called self-esteem) and our relationships with others, those that are close to us.
  • By Mental we mean both our professional skills and the hobbies and undertakings which we develop as ways of diverting our mind and giving it some nourishment, recreation and possibly some alternative education.
  • Finally, by Spiritual we mean whatever gives us peace and a sense of wholeness as well as areas where we feel we are making a contribution over and above our own private needs i.e. some way in which we are leaving our mark, however small, on this world in which we participate.

Covey’s ‘Sharpening the saw’ habit suggests that we have to renew ourselves to make sure our cutting edge doesn’t become blunt. Each week we must make sure that we have projects in each of these areas that move our life forward, however incrementally.

In other words, we are doing something to look after our health. If that collapses, so will much of the rest of our life. We are doing something about our financial goals and being financially responsible so that all our energy is not siphoned off into, ‘How will I pay the next bill?’  We make sure that we nurture some of our close relationships so that we have an emotional base to go back to, to rely on and to be nurtured by. We make sure that we build our relationships with ourselves, because if we are not at peace with ourselves, we will choke off a vital part of our personality. If we do nothing to calm ourselves, get ourselves some peace, to make life a little more meaningful, then we will feel adrift, we will begin to get bitter, depressed and may shatter.

We need to nurture and look after ourselves. Finally, if we make no contribution, then we lead a life that begins to get empty and vain.  We don’t have to become martyrs or saints, but it is important to do a few things out of generosity, out of care to contribute to the type of society and the type of environment we all want to live in. 

Habit #8 Use your Magical Brain;

Your brain is a fantastic organ with muscle like properties that enables it to grow with use. Work hard to combine the logic, the analysis and the incisiveness of the left hemisphere with the initiative, creative and lateral daring of the right hemisphere.

Logic without aesthetics can be cold and inhuman.

Habit #9 Lighten up:

Lighten up, don’t tighten up. It’s good for our health, and a little good natured fun is what the soul needs. Make a ‘joy list’, made up of things that help you connect with our joy in being alive. Celebrate these, revel in them – that’s how enthusiasm grows and becomes infectious and we brighten up those around us.

Remember the attitude of gratitude. There is so much to be grateful for.

Habit #10 Give more than expected:

The ultimate essence of highly effective people is the attitude to always give more than expected to all people they deal with. These include family, friends, work place, society, customers, suppliers etc. It involves giving more value than expected without expecting anything in return.

The universal accounting system will ensure that balancing will take place with appropriate return.

If you want help in embedding these habits into your day-to-day life then contact me and we can discuss this further.