Stephen R. Covey has, perhaps unwittingly, combined Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, W. Clement, Stone, and Jean Paul Sartre in The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness (Free Press; $26). He argues in the book that although we live in the “information age,” people (ourselves included) are too-often treated the way they were in the “industrial age”: as “things,” objects to be manipulated, moved, and otherwise treated like inanimate items (or not even as well as them: there are probably a goodly number of people who spend more time polishing their cars than hugging their kids). Covey points out that the “thingness” isn’t just the people at the bottom, but even those who ostensibly lead organizations are things, as well. Consequently, people/things are alienated, leading the lives of quiet desperation. But it need not be so. They have the opportunity to do more, be more, achieve more, live more, through the application of what Covey, who codified The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People 15 years ago, thinks that it is necessary to do one better, go up to eight. So what is number 8? “Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs.” “Voice” is found at the intersection of talent, passion, need, and conscience. “Voice” is about what is right for you as an individual (keeping in mind that you are a social being, so this isn’t some hedonistic exercise at the expense of others), what helps connect you with what is really important in your personal and public lives. It is what helps you achieve fulfillment and what quashes alienation. Covey breaks this down in a step-by-step explication that goes on for nearly 400 pages and supplements that with a DVD that provides narratives related to his instruction.
Covey writes: “When we say that leadership is a choice, it basically means you can choose the level of initiative you want to exercise in response to the question ‘What is the best I can do under the circumstances?’” Leadership is not just something that one does in relation to other people, but in relation to one’s self. So going beyond effectiveness to greatness is probably the best thing we should strive for under any circumstance.—GSV