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Written By: Maria Anwer:

So many times we hear about individuals attending conferences for effective communication skills, team management, time management and the like as if the change will come from outside in. The reality is that lasting change is an inside out process i.e. building the character. Otherwise, there is a force from the outside demanding change which is unlike the natural laws and, hence robs away personal effectiveness from leadership.

Leaders lead from character and, character is established by having a set of habits which define success on principles rather than based on popular culture.

There are 9 ways in which leadership is shown as strength of character in the book 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey. He talks in his book’s foreword about basic human feelings and, emotions and how do people inspired from the popular culture deal with them. Now we are going to understand each example, explain it with thoroughly through psychology and, then contrast it with the response from Stephen Covey’s book:

1.Fear and insecurity
It is the feeling which highlights one’s weaknesses to deal with the situation and, mars one’s view of future with negativity. A part of the fear is good enough to keep one abreast with reality. But, when it gets out of control and shapes up into uncontrollable anxiety, it is then when it becomes a challenge to handle. It is famously said that,’ danger is real but, fear is a choice”.
But whenever one has fear whether it is the fear of poverty, hunger, loss of job, diminishing finances over time, in all these fears lie a response of the society of independence of individual. However, true sustainability comes from interdependence which Stephen Covey calls in his book as the maturity continuum. It is a principle which is based on teamwork, cooperation and, communication.
The point to mention here would be that in order to conquer fear, one cannot independently make a resolve for a long time. It is from interdependence that one seeks true pleasures of life. It is learnt from nature as a universal principle as nature is also highly interdependent.

Leadership is also fearless once an interdependent structure supports it. Through psychology, it means less of stress and flight conditions as there are many to share the burden or, the cost of any decision.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Approach: Mere independence
Principle Centered Approach: Interdependence

2.I want it now – Instant gratification

There is another culture which has propped up with the advent of new financial system, it is of credit card buying or, a behavior of spending more than one’s production. This system of instant gratification is a mere loss-loss game in the end. Hence one needs to assess one’s resources first with a constant investment in one’s skills, health and, priorities to obtain benefit from them later in life. This way, the real mantra of life is sustainability and, growth.

Leadership understands a continuous investment in ones skills to meet the demands of the highly competitive society and, organizational structures.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Approach: Credit card societies – get now and pay later
Principled Centered Approach: Invest now and, reap the benefits later

3.Blame and victimization

As human beings, we are very powerful creatures because we have choices to make. The popular culture’s approach is to become a product of circumstances. Our minds are wired to blaming that if only my father invested in my education then I would have succeeded. There are so many ‘If Only’. We need to rewire our mind to take responsibility of choices which we have instead of sitting back and, complaining. Blames take the responsibility off one’s shoulder to that of another but, it also makes one as obsolete because there is no responsibility hence no improvement in self, habits, thinking and, the like.

Leadership recognizes choices and, takes responsibility. It is not passive.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: ‘If Only’ I had ….
Principle Centered Approach: The supreme power of choice


It is the fruit of expectations and, the belief that the society owes us something which is not the reality. It is also the product of the failed mantra that I am crushed under circumstances. It is the human intelligence which understands that everyone will act in their self-interests and, this belief will pacify all souls as it lowers expectations.

Leadership understands the real essence of survival of the fittest ideology which leads everyone to act in their personal interests first. That is the reason to sacrifice for others is Godly and, held in high esteem. But it is when one goes against one’s basic nature.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: Determinism – A being is a product of its consequences
Principle Centered Approach: Cynicism – Everyone acts in their self interest

5.Lack of life balance

It is not the work which is never ending but, the popular culture which demands in a schedule of walking in early and walking out late as a mark of efficiency.
Leadership marks priorities and, understands focus.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: Efficiency is neglecting work-life balance in the name of efficiency
Principle Centered Approach: Priorities and, focus drive real success

6.Whats in it for me?

The new age mantra is to get the deals where one person is which is the self, the beneficiary. Whereas the principle centered approach of interdependence talks about togetherness, it takes a whole group into account for reaping benefits.

Leadership has the character trait of talking on the behalf of many and, not to keep the benefits glued to one self only

Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: “I” – only individual in focus
Principle Centered Appraoch: “We” – togetherness

7.The hunger to be understood

There is habit 5 in the book 7 habits of highly effective people where Stephen Covey advises his readers to become good listeners to get the desired response of outcome from a group or, people in general. He says that to make one completely heard, one needs to genuinely listen.

Leadership is all influence.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: Communication skills are enough to influence others
Principle Centered Approach: Real listening is required for real understanding and influence

8.Conflict and, differences

There is a habit 3 in the book by the same author which seeks to strike a middle ground when in decision making. It aims not to put the sole focus on winning the situation but to bringing in cooperation which brings a utility bringing compromise from both parties and, giving a better solution to which both the parties agree.

Leadership understands and, seeks win-win in all conflicts and, differences.

Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: The one who wins all conflicts is more competitive
Principle Centered Approach: Seek a win-win from all parties involved in the conflict.

9.Personal stagnation

It is a point when one feels stuck in life when the author of the above mentioned book shares human nature and, it wiring with us. He says that the human nature is four dimensional. He also shows the difference between popular culture and, principle centered approach. The four dimensions are mentioned as followed in the book:

I.Body – The flesh and, bones
If something wrong happens
Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: Surgery
Principle Centered Approach: Take care of one’s health

II.Mind- The thought process
Popular Culture’s Wrong Belief: It says watch television, entertain me
Principle Centered Approach: Read broadly and deeply,
Focus on continuous education
III.Heart – The feelings’ and emotions’ seat
Popular Culture’s Wrong Approach: Use relationships for manipulation
Principle Centered Approach: Respect and serve

IV.Spirit – The energy behind actions
Popular Culture Wrong Approach: Teaches secularism
Principle Centered Approach: Find coherence in universal laws for example laws of physics to see from where all positivity and all hope come from.

There is a difference between the popular culture approach and the principle centered approach and there can be many examples for them. But the point of true leadership is to understand the difference and, make a real mark by following the principle centered approaches as they are deeply embedded in the character ethic and, not in the personality ethic. The difference between the two is the difference between organic growth and, inorganic growth of a person. The inorganic cannot last for long whereas, the organic survives. The same goes for leadership.

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