I met the camera team an hour or two before the interview with Dr Covey at a Sandton hotel. He was still presenting to a thousand business executives. We went up to his room and then the challenge started of trying to fit all the necessary equipment into his room. It really wasn’t a large room, as I expected it would be.
At the designated time I walked down the passage leading up to his room to meet him and Chelsea, his Assistant, before entering the room. Even though he had a very full and pressured day as a man in his mid-seventies he seemed alert and fresh. I commented that he seemed ready for another session with a thousand executives. He just smiled warmly, greeted me, walked into his room and very professionally prepared himself for the interview that would broadcast on radio and TV.
While we sat on the couch, being wired up by the team, I asked Covey whether he sometimes felt like a robot – gliding from one event and interview to the next? In an honest and childlike manner he said: “Yes, I do sometimes feel like that”.
He can see himself as many things – a businessman, a leadership guru, author and so on. But, he chooses to be a teacher. His Father sent him to Harvard Business School to eventually take over the family business, but he walked out of there only to break the news to his Father that he wanted to be a teacher.
He speaks of ‘finding one’s voice’, which in essence means finding one’s passion, purpose, mission in life. He found his voice in being a teacher – a highly paid one, but a teacher nevertheless. Interestingly enough his Father’s response was that he too didn’t really find his voice in business, even though he continued following that path!
Pause for a moment and ask yourself whether you have found your voice? Perhaps you think you know what it is but you don’t have the courage to act on it? It really takes courage to follow your voice! In fact, even before that, it takes courage to actively go in search of your voice! Most people just plod along from day to day, moving in a direction that the broader society seems to indicate as the best one.
When I meet a leader that comes across as truly authentic and dynamic and I dig a little bit deeper I almost always find that they have found and followed their purpose, mission, passion!
The most satisfying thing for Covey is to see his children and grandchildren and to try and get them to continue the legacy of making a difference. I asked him to what he ascribed his success. Without hesitation he emphasized their family mission statement of trying to serve and build society. In his life time he has had the opportunity of training 22 Heads of State and their Cabinets.
Even though he does not love all the traveling he feels that he is making a difference; that his work is meaningful; that he is on a mission. In questioning this man further I established that it is this clarity of mission that pulls him through those tiring moments of traveling and attending conference after conference, interview after interview.
He was not necessarily excited about yet another interview with me, but because of his clarity of purpose and commitment to it he was able to quickly reposition his attitude. Ultimately this allowed him to make a difference to thousands during the interview.
No level of success of any leader is only fantastic or exciting! It may look that way to onlookers, but they do not see the real picture! It is in fact very lonely and one fact about humans is that they get used to almost anything, even fame, attention and money. What ultimately pulls one through is remaining true to one’s purpose, passion, mission or voice.
Next week – more practical leadership advice from my interview with Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
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