To successfully evaluate a work such as Principle-Centered Leadership, one must first examine the background of the author, in this case, Stephen R. Covey. He is a famous expert on issues of leadership, specialist in family issues, besides he works as an organizational consultant and vice chairman of Franklin Covey Co. From Stephen R. Covey’s pen came of several much-talked-of books, he is also an owner of numerous honors and awards; Time magazine named him among twenty-five most influential Americans. In 1990, following his successful Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), Stephen R. Covey wrote a book entitled Principle-Centered Leadership.
This book was an evoked response to new conditions in business pre-caused by applying the natural laws of life to organizations described by the author and challenges leaders face in business by applying these natural laws. Covey underlines that the sustainable success of organization as well as the success of an individual, in particular, must be based on persistent work. Covey provides the interpretation of the natural laws, among which one can find security, guidance, wisdom, and power, and further on he expatiates how concentration on these laws and defined by him seven-habits practice bring about personal and organizational change.
Besides, according to Covey, determined commitment is prerequisite to success in business, and latter can be achieved only if one is ready to complete paradigm shift in long-range outlook. The paradigm, which author intends to bring for the reader, is many-sided and is conformable to classic dilemmas of contemporary life. The principle-centered leadership presents a new way of thinking based on timeless principles. These principles of human being presented on various levels including personal, interpersonal, managerial, organizational serve as a core of Convey paradigm. Each level is described by key law: personal – trustworthiness, interpersonal – trust, managerial – empowerment, organizational – alignment.
According to Covey principle-centered leaders are people, regardless the gender, who work on the ground of natural principles, or laws, and make those principles into the center of their lives, into the center of their relationships with others, into the center of their agreements and contracts, into their management processes, and into their mission statements (Covey 1990).
In this book Covey attempts to expound habits that basically help people to achieve effectively success both in their professional and personal lives.
This book is supposed to serves as a leadership philosophy guide, the guidebook to personal fulfillment and professional success through “principle-centered leadership” based on principles, showing how goals of excellence and total quality express an innate human need for progress in personal and organizational life. The book is aimed to show that a world of business is still based on the “power-brokering” and “strong-armed” approach to leadership and it needs to be changed. This book supplies managers of any level with instruments and vocabulary to acquire proper leadership quality and become mediators of appropriate change.
Covey describes traditional business workplaces as small societies where the colleagues that work together share the same political and social needs and interests as all people do in the society in its broad direct meaning. Thus, he suggests exploiting a “principle-centered leadership” paradigm for businesses that presumably is based on time-proved social values. As for any society the most important things are the maintenance of stability and order just the same for sustained success and more efficacy of any business such important thing is adaptation of the unilateral authority and government of a management hierarchy that views employees as economic units, not social participators.
However, in the “human relations paradigm,” this power is, to some extent, more well-disposed, it takes into account and accepts emotional needs, while remains the same strong. “Human relations paradigm” uses the creativity and talent of employees more extensively, though preserves its utilitarian sense. In any event, employees are usually only a means to reach the target of the company. It often happens that their initiative is not appreciated. In other words, Covey draws the attention to the fact that very often employees are not considered to be political and social peers in most companies.
According to Covey companies are facing a need to use all of the talents of their employees in order to achieve active competition of an infinitely more complex and dynamic economic landscape. He implies that a new principle-centered leadership paradigm is required. Moreover this paradigm is centered at the social and political “principles” of “fairness, equity, justice, integrity, honesty, and trust” (Covey, 1990). Admittedly, it is a paradigm that provides full citizenship within a company to all employees.
The author describes characteristics of a company operating with application of principle-centered leadership paradigm. The authorized employee, who stands in the base of the company, is trustworthy, in other words, he or she is highly-qualified and possesses the features of integrity and maturity. Such individual trait of trustworthiness develops trusting relationships among all other members of the company to such extent that constitutes the foundations of the company’s success. Trust also assists to achieve highly efficient communications among the company staff. The company is managed in compliance with “win-win performance agreements with negotiated accountability and consequences stipulations” (Covey, 1990). With such agreements in place, explicit managerial control is replaced by self-supervision (Covey, 1990). The author asserts that companies that have taken over principle-centered leadership cease to be autocratic, and have established a form of democracy.
However, one question arises while reading this book. Is the principle-centered leadership really democratic? The implementation of principle-centered leadership involves top-down approach. This paradigm intended for top leaders, possessing wisdom, with the purpose to convert their organizations by “communicating vision, clarifying purposes,” and establishing an overriding, governing mission (Covey, 1990). The aim of mission formulating is to increase employees’ feeling of making contribution. The author provides long-winded explanation why he offered such behavior which can heighten an executive’s honor and authorities with others. It becomes apparent that the principle-centered leadership paradigm is supposed to rest on charismatic leadership, which often calls to emotions and not comprehensive participation.
Covey’s concept of principle-centered leadership is based to great extent on his debates that principles of cooperation among people are “self-evident, objective, and external” as the natural laws should be. However, such statement seems to lack sound reason. Impartiality, integrity, and justice are all disputable points that often fall under strenuous debate in society. The all-wise leader does not have a hold on the definition of those ideals.
Principle-centered leadership adopts the frame of employee authority, but in reality it seems to be, to more extent, a paradigm in motivation. The aim in principle-centered leadership is to make employees, in imperceptible way, believe that the company is being managed in a well-disposed, impartial manner “by all-knowing, high-minded leaders towards lofty goals” (Covey, 1990).
The author fails to provide compelling and strong examples of conflicts that may accompany principle-centered leadership concept. These potential conflicts are, actually, underestimated as inessential compared to the prevalent devotion to a transcendent mission.
In conclusion, Covey fails to convince the reader of efficacy of principle-centered leadership treating it as indefinite concept and applying, unfortunately, no social approach to form the basis of this concept.
Covey, Stephen R., Principle-Centered Leadership New York, NY: Summit Books, 1990