5 Winning Practices For Effective Personal Leadership



Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It doesn’t begin and end with the writing of a personal mission statement. It is, rather, the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things.” Stephen R. Covey.

This post is solely meant to help you become your own leader, your own C.E.O if you will.

If you made the time to read my previous post, then you know that I have been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. I however never really went into detail about the 7 habits and what they meant for me.

I also mentioned having a bad week and a bad encounter at work. If you had asked me then, I would have completely alienated myself from the blame. I would have taken the effect side and told you that my boss, the circumstances at the time, the weather or even God was to blame for me having a bad time.

Everyone who exercises personal leadership, or has risen to the C.E.O position in their lives knows that as much as every situation has a consequence and as much as there are things that happen that we have no control over, we have the power to decide how and whether/if  we are going to react to those things.

See I chose to let the circumstances at the time affect how I felt and I chose to see the negative side of things thus choosing to have a bad time. Bad things happen all the time but how we chose to react to them is what makes the difference. I have said it before and I will say it again, it is all about perception.

How we choose to see things, how we choose to react to them. I could have easily said you know what, this and this happened, I should have anticipated that there would be consequences but they should not have been the determinant of whether that smile on my face would stay there or not.

I should have been the one to determine that.

You see there are two types of people on this world, the reactors and the initiators. The former are always controlled by the outcome of things, they react based on circumstances. The latter however choose to take control and not let circumstances control them. They have a goal and a vision for their lives. That is what drives them and not the outcome of things.

Which side do you belong to?

1.Response – ability

Habit one talks about being proactive.

“It means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. “Stephen R. Covey.


Proactive People Are Not Influenced By Circumstances

My take on this is that Mr. Covey was simply trying to tell us that we are our own bosses.

How we feel, how we react to things is a function of our decisions. We are the programmers of our lives. My NLP instructor taught us about the cause and effect side and Mr. Covey touches on the same. He talks about the difference between reactive and proactive people.

Reactive people according to him are affected by their physical and social environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance. When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.

Proactive people can carry their own weather with them.

Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.

You know when I was in high school and it rained we would become very laid back and take that as a chance to miss out on things like the morning parade. Our principle then came one day and called us out for that. She told us that the rain should not affect how we get on with our lives.

We cannot stop living because it’s raining and now I see she was talking about the same thing as Mr. Covey.

My NLP instructor would have said that proactive people are the people on the cause side where as reactive people are the people on the effect side.

Covey has put all of this into perspective and he even went further to include Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandhi’s quotes.

“No one can hurt you without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt.

“They cannot take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.” Gandhi.

Now I hope it is pretty clear which side you ought to be in.

2.Start with a clear understanding of your destination

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”

Oliver Wendell Holme.

Mr. Covey simply put the second habit as beginning with the end in mind. This means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

When you have a clear goal in mind, a clear vision of what you want your life to be and where you want to be then everything you do every single day will be a clear reflection of that. It will be geared towards taking you there and only then will you be excited to wake up every morning because you will have found your purpose.

It is only then that your actions and feelings will stop being controlled by external circumstances. It is only then that you will be in control because no matter what happens, you have a clear goal in mind.

Habit two is therefore about being your own creator, it is about writing your program. Deciding the outcome of your life.

One way Mr. Covey mentions of doing this is identifying where you stand, identifying your centre. This can be done by looking closely at your life support factors such as security, wisdom, guidance and power.

By identifying what influences these things in your life you will be able to know whether your center is limiting your personal effectiveness and if it is, what you can do to change it to be in line with the outcome that you want for your life.

3.Prioritizing responsibilities

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least” Goeth.

image courtesy of affirmyourlife.blogpost.com

Prioritizing Responsibilities

I have actually written about this before in a previous post. I will therefore not dwell on it.

Habit three simply talks about putting first things first. Personal management. In that blog post, I talked about evaluating the importance and urgency of things in your life.

You have heard it said that where there is smoke there is fire. Just as well when more than one person‘s message though written differently has the same meaning, then there has to be some truth to it.

Now I am not saying that you take the things that I write here or the things written on the books I suggest to you as the gospel truth.

No. Not at all because if you do not get the outcome that you expected or succeed you will blame me or the authors.

Simply read then decide how or if you are willing to apply the teachings to your life. You are your own boss therefore only you have that power.

If you want to know more about prioritizing responsibilities and differentiating between things that are urgent and important and so forth then check out my previous post:  Leading Like A ‘Bawse’: What To Do When Everything Seems Equally Important.’

4.Think Win -Win

You wouldn’t believe how much meaning those three little words have. You wouldn’t also believe how hard it is to implement them but as leader you must.

Leaders are not selfish, leaders are not weak, and leaders are not driven by competition or the need to be better than others. Leaders simply take it upon themselves to build not only themselves but others.

Leaders have a win-win mentality, they believe in the mutual benefit in all human interactions and they most certainly do not believe that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.

I have many times been made to feel that thinking about how my actions would impact other people or an organization was wrong. That if it was beneficial to me and only me that is what I should do.

This way of thinking is called the win mentality and it is the mentality that most people are taught to have this and the win-lose mentality.

The win-lose mentality is whereby you work to be better than others but guess what you can all succeed. The only person you ought to be in completion with is yourself.

“Win-win is not a personality technique. It’s a total paradigm of human interaction. It comes from a character of integrity, maturity, and the Abundance Mentality. It grows out of high-trust relationships. It is embodied in agreements that effectively clarify and manage expectations as well as accomplishments. It thrives in supportive systems.” Stephen R. Covey

If your goal is to establish long lasting relationships and to be at peace with yourself then this is the right mentality to have.

During my social media and digital marketing training at Kuza Biashara, a certain lady came to speak to us. She is a Kenyan designer; she makes bags, hoodies and what not from Ankara and makes beaded accessories as well.

She told us that she didn’t mind teaching her craft to others or selling her items at a whole sale price to resellers because another person’s success would not make hers any less significant.

5.Listen more talk less

Habit five is all about empathic communication. “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Really listen and pay attention to what someone is telling you without interrupting and giving solutions based on an experience you’ve had or what you would have done.

Understand what someone else is saying, then what they are going through.


The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of – Pascal

Oh how I wish I could just copy/paste everything Mr. Covey has written about this habit. He explains it so elaborately.

He made me realize that this particular habit I have a problem with.

When one of my friends or anyone really starts telling me about a problem they have, I almost immediately respond with advice or with a story on a similar experience I had thinking that I am being helpful where as in real sense I was just listening to reply, I didn’t really listen.

Empathic Listening is whereby you actually pay attention to what someone is saying because you are actually concerned and want to understand what he/she is actually going through. It is different from being sympathetic in that you are not just agreeing with what someone is saying and giving heartfelt sorries.

These are just five of the 7 habits that Mr. Covey has written about and I have written from my own perspective. Feel free to get the book and read it so that you can understand these habits from your own point of view.


34 thoughts on “5 Winning Practices For Effective Personal Leadership

  1. Wearing the “robe” of a leader is harder than we all think, you have just succeeded in breaking it down and making it easier with your analysis. Thanks.


  2. Enjoyed this piece, very very well written. I truly appreciate your perspectives on these points provided by Stephen Covey and how they have impacted you. Thank you for providing this value to others.


  3. Great post! I especially like the tip about listening more than talking….we can learn from each other. Thanks for sharing!


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