Characteristics of principle-centered leaders

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

“Effective people lead their lives and manage their relationships around principles; ineffective people attempt to manage their time around priorities and their tasks around goals. Think effectiveness with people; efficiency with things.” - Stephen Covey

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In his best-selling book, Principle-Centered Leadership, author Stephen Covey identifies eight discernible characteristics of what he terms principle-centered leaders – i.e., those leaders who manage their lives and their organizations according to fundamental principles that are universally valid. According to Covey these extraordinary leaders possess the following traits:

1.) They are continually learning.

  • continually expand their skills

2.) They are service oriented.

  • see what they do in life as a mission
  • accept the responsibility to care for and sometimes carry others

3.) They radiate positive energy.

  • enthusiastic, hopeful and believing
  • seek to be a peacemaker, a harmonizer and to undo or reverse destructive energy

4.) They believe in other people.

  • find the unseen potential in all people in order to engender an environment conducive to growth

5.) They lead balanced lives.

  • possess a sense of appropriateness and equilibrium
  • think in terms of continuums, priorities and hierarchies

6.) They see life as an adventure.

  • capable of adaptation
  • their security lies in initiative, resourcefulness, creativity, courage and stamina rather than retreat into their comfort zone

7.) They are synergistic.

  • believe that the interplay between parts produces more intense, imaginative energy than the parts alone can produce
  • catalysts for change and dedicated to utilizing the contributions of all members of a team

8.) They exercise for self-renewal.

  • regularly exercise the four dimensions of being - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual

Like many of his contemporaries, Covey considers the essential components of an effective leader to be less about the objective application of management strategies and techniques and more about the genuine integrity and dedication of human beings to each other and a common purpose. His philosophy opposes much of the hard-edged technique-based programs for success that constitutes much of the early literature in favor of the kinder, gentler, more human orientation that has become common aspect of leadership development. I believe perspectives of this nature are immensely important and all too often ignored or given only lip-service in the realm of large organizations. In spite of the expert execution of either the newest or tried-and-true management techniques, the synergy of human interaction will determine the comprehensive success of failure of a system.

With regard to the current organizational environment, this point is even more relevant. The broader aim of professional development is certainly an evolution of the whole person. In this way, the incorporation of operation by holistic guiding principles corresponds directly to the philosophy of leadership proposed in Covey’s book. In addition, our complex social and political culture requires strong, solid, effective leadership, characteristics which Covey insists arise from consistent adherence to one’s basic principles and core beliefs.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY
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