Rest in Peace: Stephen R. Covey

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My twitter feed is a source of news. Today I learned of the passing of Stephen R. Covey, a respected author in my book. The books above are in my personal collection. They are revisited often as I try to incorporate his thoughts into my own life.

My interest in Stephen R. Covey’s work began with a cassette tape of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) that I use to listen to on my commute to work. The 7 habits, reviewed in the Slideshare below, became a part of my thoughts and actions.

View more presentations from Azhar Abbas

I feel these 7 habits characterize what all leaders need to embody in order to build the culture and climate in a school. I re-listened  to the The 8th Habit on a recent road trip.  During my first read of the book I remember thinking that the 8th Habit was one, that “without knowing it,” I have tried to strive for during my career as a school improvement consultant and instructional coach. I continually try to “find my voice and inspire others to find theirs.”

As a classroom teacher it was important to help students find their own voice. I discovered that in order for my students to learn, they learned best by teaching others.  My students, with very diverse, low-income backgrounds became teachers for themselves and others. I implemented the literature circle concept with my students. The more successful we became with the process, more students wanted to become involved  (my ELL students who were being pulled out of the classroom). As our community of learners and “teachers” grew, others wanted to be involved (teachers in the building, district, and outlying districts). Soon our classroom became a place where others came to observe what we were doing. The students took great pride in “teaching” others (especially the adults) about how they were growing as readers through this process of allowing their own voice/opinions to be shared openly.

Covey uses this same type of scenario when he states, “you learn best when you teach another.” He went on to state, “to know and not to do, is really not to know … it is only in the doing, they applying, that knowledge and understanding are internalized.” I have found a lot of truth to that statement, especially in the work I know do as an instructional coach. As a coach it is my job to work alongside teachers as we internalize specific strategies, learning approaches or in the coming year the Common Core Standards.

Covey helps us examine that the best time to learn how to find your “voice” is in your childhood. For many this comes from the home. Yet, we know that many children come from homes where they learn “victimism, scarcity, complaining, comparing, contending, and criticizing.” He suggests that perhaps early home life could take place in a school, to compensate for the dysfuntionalities in a home.

Throughout Covey’s book, he invites the reader to view short motivational video clips provided with the book. One in particular had a lot of meaning to me. It is a video clip of an assembly at A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, NC – a school with a mission to produce leaders in society. This school, featured in Covey’s book The Leader in Me, uses the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a vehicle for their school’s day-to-culture. This is a beautiful example of building a culture of effectiveness within a school. Not only are the students becoming leaders in society, they found student achievement rose from 67% proficient to 94% proficient in 18 short months!

When I am asked about my “dream school” A.B. Combs always comes to mind. A school that strives to consider each and every person in the school a leader is the type of environment I plan to strive for as an administrator. Rather than complaining about the home lives of students, embracing the students for who they are is my goal. By living the 7 habit each person in the school could be empowered to “live, love, laugh, and leave a legacy” just as Stephen R. Covey has taught us!

Stephen R. Covey, you will be missed! Thank you!

While working on this post I ran across several great Slideshare presentations utilizing the work of Stephen R. Covey. Enjoy!


  • Josh 16 Jul

    Thank you for your reflection regarding Stephen Covey! I read Principle Centered Leadership on a yearly basis and have tried diligently to apply his numerous work and life lessons to my own life. He was a huge influence on me!

  • Anbusivam 17 Jul

    Shocked to know that, one of the world’s great human being, who inspired me the most is no more. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Karl 1 Mar

    Until today, 1 March 2013, I did not realize that Covey had died. (I took the “7 Habits” course through the Norfolk Naval Shipyard about 2 years ago.) I found out when I did a search for the phrase “Teach to Learn,” as I thought I might have gotten it from his course and that it was from him. (I have found that the concept “Teach to Learn” has worked for me in several instances.

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