Stephen Richards Covey was an American educator, author, businessman and motivational speaker. His most popular book was “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” which was written to help individuals discover how they can be more effective by making conscious decisions as to how they will respond, act, and think.
On July 16, 2012, we lost this pioneer in leadership development. Dr. Covey died at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, due to complications from a fall, having lost control of his bicycle in April. He will be missed my many people here in the United States, and around the World.
Earlier this year, I posted, Good to Great (A Submariner’s Profile in Empowerment), a profile about Captain David Marquet, former Commanding Officer of the USS Santa Fe. In that post, I mentioned Dr. Covey’s ride on that submarine, and that he discussed one of Captain Marquet’s leadership practices in his book, The 8th Habit. More recently, upon his death, I posted a guest post by David Marquet to commemorate and honor the man entitled, In Memory of Dr. Stephen R. Covey (1932 – 2012). That post was an impassioned reflection by Captain Marquet on how Dr. Covey impacted his life. In that post, David wrote directly to the spirit of Dr. Covey writing, “Stephen, thank you for your influence, clear thinking, and enthusiasm for life. We will miss you.”
Dr. Covey’s ride on the USS Santa Fe had made an enormous impression on him. As I said earlier, he wrote a few pages in his book, The 8th Habit, but that wouldn’t be the last time Dr. Covey would express his thoughts about that day on the Santa Fe. Three weeks before his bicycle accident, Dr. Covey sent David Marquet a written draft that would soon become the Foreword to David’s book, “Turn The Ship Around! How To Create Leadership at Every level.” With the release of David’s book on August 1, this piece would become one of the last public writings Dr. Covey would pen. With David’s permission, I am posting the Foreword here. Along with David’s gracious permission to reprint these words, David offered the following:
I thank Stephen for all his support of our project. It’s no doubt, due to his influence, that the book has started out as the #1 new release in leadership. I’m sorry he’s not here to see that.L. David MarquetAuthor, “Turn The Ship Around! How To Create Leadership at Every Level”
by Dr. Stephen R. Covey
I had the opportunity to ride the USS Santa Fe during Captain Marquet’s command tour and observed firsthand the impact of his leadership approach. It had a profound impact on what I thought possible in terms of empowered and engaged workplaces.
I had been training U.S. Navy officers in leadership during the dot.com era, when I started hearing about something really special happening on a submarine in Hawaii. When an opportunity arose to ride the USS Santa Fe I jumped at. I embarked on Captain Marquet’s submarine to see what the buzz was about. Never before had I observed such empowerment. We stood on the bridge of this multibillion-dollar nuclear submarine in the crystal clear waters off of Lahaina, Maui, moving silently along the surface of the water. Shortly after getting underway, a young officer approached the captain and said, “Sir, I intend to take this ship down 400 feet.” Captain Marquet asked about the sonar contacts and bottom depth and then instructed this young man to give us another few minutes on the bridge before carrying out his intention.
Throughout the day, people approached the captain intending to do this or do that. The captain would sometimes ask a question or two, and then say, “Very well.” He reserved only the tip of the iceberg type decisions for his own confirmation. The great mass of the iceberg – the other 95 percent of the decisions – were being made without any involvement or confirmation by the captain whatsoever. Wherever I went on the submarine, the control room, the torpedo room, even the galley where they were preparing lunch, I witnessed a dispersed intensity of operations I hadn’t expected. The crew was amazingly involved and there was a constant low-level chatter of sharing information.
I can’t say I actually saw the captain give an order.
I asked David how he achieved this turnabout. He said he wanted to empower his people as far as he possibly could within the Navy’s confines, and maybe a little bit more. There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye when he told me that. He felt if he required them to own the problem and the solution to it, they would begin to view themselves as a vitally important link in the chain of command. He created a culture where those sailors had a real sense of adding value. But that answer only makes clear his objective, not what it actually takes – from the top man in the organization and everyone else – to accomplish this.
How do you create such an organization? What does it take?
The answer is in this book.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK
First of all, this is a great story, one of self-discovery, tension, and the lonely self-doubts of the leader who sets off on an unknown path. We know now that Captain Marquet’s experiment on Santa Fe was wildly successful, but at the time, neither he nor the courageous crew who embraced this new way of running an organization, knew if it would work.
Second, the book provides the specific mechanisms they used on Santa Fe to achieve the transformation. We learn what they did, how the crew reacted – good or bad – and how the mechanisms matured with time. The good news is that these mechanisms are about how we interact as people, and are universally applicable. You can apply them in your organization – business, school, government, and family.
Third, the book presents a comprehensive paradigm shift for how we think about leadership. Captain Marquet has coined the phrase “leader-leader” to differentiate from the leader-follower approach traditional leadership models have espoused. I think that laying out this distinction in such opposing terms is a good idea. Having personally witnessed how Santa Fe operated, I can attest that this new way is not a nuanced modification of how we are doing business now – it is fundamentally different, and that is where its power lies.
WHY YOU WANT TO READ THIS BOOK
No matter where you are in your company’s organization chart, you’ll want to read this book. People at the top will learn how they can release the passion, intellect, and energy of those below them. They may be unwittingly behaving and taking actions that work against those goals.
People on the front lines will also find ways to embrace decision-making and make it easier for bosses to let go of control.
We are in the middle in one of the most profound shifts in human history, where the primary work of mankind is moving from the Industrial Age of “control” to the Knowledge Worker Age of “release.” As Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” They certainly won’t be solved by one person, even and especially the one “at the top.”
Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential. You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty and tenacious creativity is volunteered only. The world’s greatest problems will be solved by passionate, unleashed “volunteers.”
My definition of leadership is this: Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. I don’t know of a finer model of this kind of empowering leadership than Captain Marquet. And in the pages that follow you will find a model for your pathway
Remember, leadership is a choice, not a position. I wish you well on your voyage!
– Stephen R. Covey, Spring 2012
*Reprinted with permission from “Turn The Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level”, by L. David Marquet, 2012, Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, Texas. Copyright © 2012 by Louis David Marquet.
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