by G.K. Webber
I’m under no illusion that Stephen Covey is a born-again Christian. Given his background (Ph.D. from Brigham Young, served there as professor and Assistant to the President) one might presume that he is a practicing Mormon. That aside, he is a brilliant thinker, and has authored books that have had a profound impact on business and industry—especially the highly acclaimed best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
I love reading Covey because of his emphasis on principled living. He is an avid proponent of the truth that “character matters.” This is nowhere more evident than in his most recent book, The 8th Habit, released late last year.
Writing off Covey and others like him because they are not Bible Christians would be a mistake. God’s common grace enables even unsaved people to see truth and speak wisdom, though they are blinded to the realities of eternal life. Indeed, Jesus himself said that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8) Covey may even have something to say to us as missionaries and leaders.
The “8th Habit” is actually foundational to the first seven. Covey maintains that “It’s about seeing and harnessing the power of a third dimension to the 7 Habits that meets the central challenge of the new Knowledge Worker Age.” That dimension, he says, is to “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” (p. 4-5)
That last statement begs for explanation. At first blush it sounds like typical New Age nonsense, but it isn’t. What he means is that each person needs to discover his own unique, personal significance in the world, and then help others do the same. In still other words, each of us, based on our gifts, abilities and inclinations, should find a place of significant service that benefits others and leaves “our world” (not necessarily the whole world, just the part we touch daily) in better shape than we found it. Beyond that, the most significant thing we can do is to help others to accomplish the same thing in their world.
In the context of biblical living and Christian ministry, here’s how I think that translates: I am to be in the place of God’s choosing, using all that I am and have to glorify Him by making an eternal difference in the lives of the people I am privileged to influence. Further, the most dramatic and lasting effect I should have on those people is to assist them in doing the same thing for themselves and others. Interestingly, even Covey defines this as a “calling.”
Reducing this principle to its simplest form, we are to find our calling and help others to find—and follow—theirs.
It’s this last part that we too often ignore. As products of the tail end of the Industrial Age, where the manufacture of things was the goal and individuals were expendable tools of production, we still tend to see people as “tools.” We may have found our calling, but we see those “under” us, perhaps even our donors, as instruments in our hands to “get the job done.” When that happens, we become controlling and manipulative—production managers instead of leaders. That done, we foster a corporate culture consisting of bosses and workers—not a healthy example for an organization founded to reflect the One who came, “not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
The solution? A new paradigm, where every individual in the organization has a grip on his (or her) calling to serve God and others, and receives all the help he needs to fulfill that calling. A new corporate mentality, where people are treated fairly, shown kindness, involved creatively, engaged meaningfully and given opportunities to meet needs in principled ways...
*Excerpted from the TNT, a monthly publication of CBM for its mission family