Stephen Covey, "7 Habits" Author, Dead at 79

5 years ago

Author Stephen Covey, whose book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People sold more than 20 million copies, died Monday at the age of 79 from residual effects of an April bicycling accident.

Credit Image: © Khan Tariq Mikkel Globe Photos/

Once named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans, Covey created an empire by teaching and living a principle-centered leadership life. His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People became far more than just a book. One of the most influential management books ever, it was a platform for so much more. I can remember reading the book in the mid-90's, and feeling that the principles were simple yet profound. I had the opportunity to take one of the multi-day trainings based on the book, even in a room full of managers giving lip service to the principles (and poised to go back to doing what they had always been doing the minute class ended), the exercises and mindset shifts were greatly beneficial.

Having studied both the 7 Habits and Principle Centered Leadership, the message of character based living and leading really resonated with me. You might say it gave me a glimpse in my mid-20's of where my own life's work would eventually head. He focused on the who you want to be, and allowed everything to flow from there, rather than offer some quick-fix tip of the day. What I've come to learn in the years since is that the solution is always simple, it is we that make it hard!

Covey also authored three other titles that exceeded one million copies in sales: First Things First, Principle-Centered Leadership, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. His book The 8th Habit sold nearly 400,000 copies. Last year, he released The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems.

He was more than an author. He was a management and leadership icon who ran multiple ten-million-dollar companies. He taught others to live and lead using simple yet profound truths through the Covey Leadership Center, which and in 1997 merged with Franklin Quest (think: Franklin Planners) to create FranklinCovey Co., a global consulting and training leader.

Given Covey's strong habit for exercise and self-reflection and his background as an avid athlete, it is not surprising that one of his leisure pursuits included cycling. On April 19 of this year, he had a bike accident while navigating a steep descent in Utah. He had been recovering since that time, and the official family statement is that he died from complications from that crash. The USA Today obituary states:

In a statement sent to employees of the Utah consulting firm Covey co-founded, his family said the writer and motivational speaker died at a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho, early Monday due to complications from a bicycle accident in April.

"In his final hours, he was surrounded by his loving wife and each one of his children and their spouses, just as he always wanted," the family said.

As with the death of any public figure, everyone has an opinion and decades of legacy usually shares the same page as the not-so-bright moments. The Salt Lake Tribune lends a bit more credence than seems fair to the naysayers who found the work an oversimplification (I suppose they'd say the same thing about Christian or Buddhist teachings as well, right? Because they are simple yet profound?), as well as the unpopular political move Covey made denouncing same-sex marriage (the company he ran does have an anti-discrimination policy that includes LGBT).

I am certain Covey's legacy will live on in large and small ways. From the halls of management to the independent thinkers and entrepreneurs, his impact as a visionary and thought leader has been vast, changing the lives of so many.

In what ways were you impacted by Stephen Covey's life's work?

Paula Gregorowicz is a life and business strategist who helps women that want to live their true calling by building a successful service based business without the all the self-doubt, struggle, and overwhelm.
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