In Memory of Dr. Stephen R. Covey (1932 – 2012)

A Guest Post by David Marquet

Stephen Covey rides USS Santa Fe with commanding officer David Marquet in 2000.

Stephen Covey’s Ride on the USS Santa Fe

By David Marquet

With sadness, we learn of the passing of Stephen Covey [yesterday], age 79.

Stephen had a tremendous impact not only on my life, but, through me, on the lives of those I had the privilege to lead. It started indirectly, when, after a period of reflection and tough going, I discovered The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The overall approach of private victory, then public victory, describing our growth as proceeding from dependence through independence to interdependence, struck me as incredibly simple, yet powerful. I applied what I learned to my life immediately.

Later, when assigned to command the USS Santa Fe, I applied his 7 Habits approach at the organizational level. I gave every officer and chief who reported a copy of his book. We would have seminars discussing the various habits, and the application of those habits made Santa Fe a more effective submarine.

It turned out that Stephen was doing some work for the navy and learned about what we were doing on Santa Fe. He expressed an interest in riding the ship and the navy set it up. We were scheduled to conduct a one-day transit from the port of Lahaina, on the neighboring island of Maui, back to Pearl Harbor. This would be a perfect time for him to ride. It was also when we had set up a family member cruise and were expecting about 80 family members to ride, as well.

I was apprehensive about having both events at the same time. I thought the presence of the family members would present a distorted picture of how Santa Fe operated. Further, I wasn’t sure how I’d appropriately apportion my time between running Santa Fe, Stephen, and the family members.

It worked out perfectly! Stephen was working on a book for families and held a special talk just for the family members. His message was that they played a critically important role in the success of the ship, and placed high value on family. It was a win-win.

Stephen Covey addresses family members aboard USS Santa Fe

Stephen Covey addresses family members aboard USS Santa Fe

Stephen spent the entire day onboard, talking with crew members, looking through the periscope and driving the ship. He was tremendously interested in the people, and how they worked together. Everyone he talked to felt better about themselves afterward, especially me.

Stephen Covey at the helm of USS Santa Fe

Stephen Covey at the helm of USS Santa Fe

He remained interested in how Santa Fe did and was happy to hear of the subsequent successes the ship had, including the selection of 9 of the officers for submarine command. I was honored that he included USS Santa Fe in his book, The Eight Habit, and agreed to write the forward to Turn the Ship Around!

In the control room of USS Santa Fe with Stephen Covey

Stephen, thank you for your influence, clear thinking, and enthusiasm for life. We will miss you. (1)

Learning from Stephen Covey aboard USS Santa Fe


[Stephen Covey rode the USS Santa Fe with commanding officer David Marquet in 2000]

*Reprinted with permission from the blog, Leader-Leader, by L. David Marquet.  Originally posted on July 16, 2012.

Copyright © 2012 by Louis David Marquet.


Throughout his career, Dr. Covey had many unique and fascinating experiences.  Dr. Covey chronicled his time spent on the USS Santa Fe with Captain Marquet.  Here is what Dr. Covey wrote about that experience:

I was training U.S. Navy officers in leadership during the era, when someone told me about an exemplary leader named Captain David Marquet, Captain of the U.S.S. Santa Fe, who never lost anyone, in spite of the hellish conditions submarine personnel are required to endure.

An opportunity arose, which I jumped at. I was invited to board Captain Marquet’s sub and interview him. Never before had I observed such empowerment. We stood on the bridge of this multibillion-dollar nuclear submarine with a football field of vessel in front of and behind us. A young officer approached the Captain and said, “Sir, I intend to take this ship down 400 feet.” Captain Marquet asked about the sonar and sounding and then instructed this young man to give us another twenty 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, but then say, “Very well.” He reserved only the top decisions for his own confirmation and empowered others to make the rest. He said he wanted to empower his people as far as he possibly could within the Navy’s confines. 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.

Months after my sub ride, Captain Marquet wrote to inform me that the U.S.S. Santa Fe was awarded the Arleigh Burke Trophy for most improved submarine, ship, or aviation squadron in the Pacific. (2)


If you liked this post, you’ll definitely like this post —> Some Final Thoughts from Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Related Articles:

“I Intend To” – More Than a Recommendation (

What I Learned from Stephen Covey: Begin with the End in Mind (posted 18 July 2012) (

How We Made Leader to Leader Work on Santa Fe – By David Adams (

Good to Great (A Submariner’s Profile in Empowerment) (

Turn The Ship Around!: A Captain’s Guide to Creating Leadership at Every Level (

Up Scope! (

Teach Your People to “Think Out Loud” to Enable Them to Maintain Control (


(1) Stephen Covey’s Ride on the USS Santa Fe – Accessed 16 July 2012 – Leader-Leader The Movement –

(2) About Dr. Covey – Career Highlights – Accessed 16 July 2012 – Stephen R. Covey (website) –

6 Responses to “In Memory of Dr. Stephen R. Covey (1932 – 2012)”

  1. I met him virtually at a conference last year. Couldn’t believe such energy and magnetism came from a man his age. It gives me hope.


    • Jacqui, It is very sad. We tend to lose track and sight of our, and others, advancing years. Proof and reality that we should be generous to those who love us and provide them the time, energy and love we can expend with what short time God has chosen us to be with them.

      On a side note, one of Dr. Covey’s very last (quite possibly his last) literary work was the Forward in David Marquet’s upcoming book, “Turn The Ship Around,” to be released in a couple of weeks. Very sad and ironic.

      Thanks for your comment, Jacqui!



  2. Hi Dale. It is genuinely sad that a man that has impacted so many of us in such a way has passed on. It makes me relate in some way to the passing of my wife’s Grandmother last week and although incredibly sad, because of the life Peggy led and type of person she was there was a genuine sense of celebration at her funeral and associated events. This is how I feel about Stephen. It is sad, but what an incredible legacy to be leaving behind. In many ways I believe this legacy may be more powerful than ever, with his key messages resonating more and more as the years progress. Thanks for sharing, Dale – a great read as usual. Steve Riddle


  3. […] In Memory of Dr. Stephen R. Covey (1932 – 2012) […]


  4. […] 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 […]


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