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Book Summary – The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

readingraphics March 6, 2017

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. This book adds a new dimension to Covey’s best-selling “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, to address how we can unlock human potential and greatness.

In this articles, we’ll outline the big ideas from the book. For more details, do get a copy of the book, or review our complete book summary bundle.

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 disempowered. Besides the human pain, there’s a significant cost of not harnessing our workforce’s potential, and of personal and organizational failure.

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.

In the book, 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”.

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 book summary.

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.

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 the book or our full book summary, including how to develop your 4 intelligences.

Review these insights easily with our 15-page book summary and 1-page infographic!

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].

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 Tackle Organizational Problems. Here’s a quick overview:
In particular, chronic problems are hidden, enduring, and causal issues, which are often manifested in acute problems (which are painful, crippling and symptomatic). Companies often can’t fix their chronic problems as they may not be apparent, or they may treat the symptoms and miss the underlying causes.

Today’s organizational challenges can be narrowed down to 4 chronic problems – low trust, lack of shared vision & values, misalignment and disempowerment. The Whole-Person Paradigm outlined above can be used as an important diagnostic tool to analyse and predict the problem(s), just by looking at the symptoms.  In the book, Covey elaborates on how to solve these chronic problems using 4 Leadership Roles – Modelling, Pathfinding, Aligning and Empowering – which are built on the 4 leadership attributes discussed earlier. Modelling and Pathfinding provide Focus, while Aligning and Empowering allows effective Execution. 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.

Buy a copy of the book now for the full details & insights.

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.

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. Get a overview of the key ideas and tips in our full book summary, or get a copy of the book with more information, free videos and supplementary resources from

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Move from effectiveness to greatness with these powerful resources!

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

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