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The 8th Habit - Book summary

In today’s ever-changing world, being effective is no longer a choice – it’s a requirement. Without knowing the right things to do, people can’t keep up with the rapid changes, much less deliver results. However, to address the root of our challenges today, we must go beyond effectiveness, to unlock the greatness in each of us. The 8th Habit adds a new dimension to Stephen Covey’s best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to address how we can unlock human potential and greatness. In this free version of The 8th Habit summary, we’ll give a synopsis of the big ideas from the book.

Despite all our technological and productivity breakthroughs, people are feeling frustrated, lost, stressed, empty, and insecure. There’s a gap because we all possess huge potential and desire to live a life of contribution and meaning, yet most of us are not thriving in our organizations, and are feeling dis-empowered. Besides the human pain, there’s a significant cost of not harnessing our workforce’s potential, and of personal and organizational failure.

The 8th Habit: An Overview

The challenges we face today are not due to technology or globalization, but the inability to harness human potential. Mankind has an unprecedented amount of choice, and we don’t know what to do with it. We’re living in the Age of Information/ Knowledge Worker (IKW), but still thinking and operating like the Industrial Age.

The 8th Habit summary_Paradigm shift-whole-person paradigm

In the book, Stephen Covey details how each shift in civilization brought paradigm shifts in thinking, a displacement of 90% of traditional jobs, with a productivity improvement of 50 times.

To make quantum leaps and thrive in this new era, we need to change the lenses from which we view our world. For the IKW Age, we need a shift to the “Whole-Person Paradigm”, to recognize that people are not “things” to be controlled and motivated, but complete beings with mind, body, heart and spirit. The key of this era is to unlock human potential by recognizing the Whole-Person, and this is what the 8th habit is about – unlocking a third dimension to the 7 habits, to move from “effectiveness” to “greatness”.

The 8th Habit summary_From Effectiveness to Greatness_overview-synopsis

To do this, you need to (a) find your unique personal voice, then, (b) embrace leadership as a choice and inspire others to find their voices. Get a detailed overview of the implications of the IKW age, learn more about the whole-person paradigm, and understand what it means to take the Path of Mediocrity vs the Path of Greatness from our full 15-page book summary.

Find Your Voice

The first part of the book focuses on how to find your voice – this includes using your birth-rights or birth-gifts, and expressing your voice.

The 8th Habit summary_Find your voice

We’re all born with “birth-gifts” of talents, intelligences and infinite potential. Unfortunately, most of these gifts are not opened or used. Three of your most important birth-gifts are: the freedom to choose, natural laws/ principles, and 4 intelligences/ capacities (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual).  Get more details about your 3 key birth-gifts from our full book summary, including how to develop your 4 intelligences.

Your voice (or calling) is where your talents, passion, and conscience converge with what the world needs. Apply your talents (natural gifts and strengths), passion (what naturally excites, energizes, and motivates you), to a human need (which people are willing to pay for), that calls to your conscience (the quiet, small voice inside that tells you what’s right). Mankind’s greatest leaders and achievers (like George Washington, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa) all went through major challenges in their lives. Through their struggles, they expanded and manifested their 4 intelligences via 4 attributes: their Vision, Discipline, Passion and Conscience. In the book, Covey expands on these components in detail. [You can also get an overview via our complete book summary].

Inspiring Others to Find Their Voices

Leadership is not about roles and positions; It’s about helping others to see and achieve their worth and potential. When you have found your voice, you can inspire others to find theirs. This involves leading by principles, affirming others, uniting them through a common vision, and empowering them with resources and accountability.

The challenge today is to build and run organizations in a way that brings out people’s voices and directs their potential toward higher organizational goals.  In the book, Covey expands on our leadership challenge today, and how to use the Whole-Person Paradigm as an important diagnostic tool to analyse and predict the problem(s) by looking at the symptoms.He further explains the 4 leadership roles – Modelling, Pathfinding, Aligning and Empowering to address these problems Get a copy of our full book summary to for a detailed overview of the insights and tips for each of the 4 Leadership Roles (e.g. how to be a role model to build trust, find alternative paths and build synergistic teams, help people to win), and how to close the execution gap to achieve greatness.

By applying the 8th Habit, we can truly achieve greatness at all levels:

  • Personal Greatness, as we discover our 3 birth-gifts, and cultivate them to demonstrate vision, discipline, passion and conscience;
  • Leadership Greatness, as we choose to find our voice and inspire others, regardless of our position; and
  • Organizational Greatness, as organizations systematically unlock, align and direct people’s potential toward higher goals.

Covey believes that the IKW Age will be followed by the Age of Wisdom, where human knowledge and potential will be directed in a principled way, to serve a greater good or purpose. He urges each of us to cultivate the 8th Habit, and to use our voices wisely to serve others.

Getting the Most from The 8th Habit

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 15-page text summary, and a 27-minute audio summary.

The 8th Habit summary - book summary bundle

This is an information-packed book, full of concepts, models, references and how-to tips. Besides the ideas in this summary, the book includes resources such as:

  • Comparisons between the Industrial Age and the IKW Age;
  • 7 Levels of Initiative / Self-empowerment;
  • An overview of Covey’s 7 Habits and their underlying principles/ paradigms;
  • Appendices that include a literature review of leadership theories, a guide to develop your 4 intelligences, how to implement the 4 disciplines of execution etc.

To get the most of the book, Covey recommends that you learn via teaching and doing – this is the best way to understand and internalize the knowledge from the book. You can purchase the book here with more information, free videos and supplementary resources from

Find out how to master your personal effectiveness: Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People summary here!

About the Author of The 8th Habit

The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness is written by Stephen Covey–an American businessman, educator, author, and keynote speaker. Besides The 8th Habit, some of his more popular books include The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, Principle-Centered Leadership, and The Leader In Me. Covey was one of the most influential thought leaders on leadership, strategy and individual effectiveness. In 1996, he was named one of Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans. He founded the Covey Leadership Center, which later became FranklinCovey Co., after a merger with Franklin Quest in 1997.

The 8th Habit Quotes

“The call and need of a new era is for greatness. It’s for fulfilment, passionate execution, and significant contribution.”

“If you want to make minor, incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behaviour or attitude. But if you want to make significant, quantum improvement, work on paradigms.”

“Next to life itself, the power to choose is your greatest gift.”

“Fundamentally, we are a product of choice not nature (genes) or nurture (upbringing, environment).”

“There is a deep, innate, almost inexpressible yearning within each one of us to find our voice in life.”

“Vision is applied imagination.”

“Discipline is willpower embodied.”

“Trust is the fruit of the trustworthiness of both people and organizations.”

Click here to download The 8th Habit book summary and infographic

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