Personal Leadership is a Choice


Stephen Covey on Codependency

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.”Elbert Hubbard

Don’t give your power away.  You don’t need somebody to give you a title to practice your leadership.  Leadership is influence.  Your build your influence muscle the more you practice it.

I was looking tor more nuggets of wisdom from Stephen Covey, and I found this one on the downward spiral of codependency.  It happens when managers or leaders treat people like things.  And it happens when you let yourself be managed like a thing.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What To Do

As a leader of people, the last thing you want is everybody waiting to be told what to do.   If all the reward, or all the blame is on your shoulders, then you’ve created a disempowering and codependent environment.  As an individual, the last thing you want is to be continuously looking outside yourself, waiting for answers and solutions to appear, or for somebody else to fix whatever the problem is.

Don’t let YOU stop YOU from taking initiative, and don’t be the one that takes your power away.

In the book, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Stephen Covey shares insights and actions on how to break the chain of codependency and to rise above your position through self-leadership and by looking inside, not outside to take initiative.

Leadership is Not a Position

You don’t need a position to exercise your leadership.

Via The 8th Habit:

“What happens when you manage people like things?  They stop believing that leadership can become a choice.  Most people think of leadership as a position and therefore don’t see themselves as leaders.  Making personal leadership (influence) a choice is like having the freedom to play the piano.  It is freedom that has to be earned — only then can leadership become a choice.”

Don’t Be Managed Like a Thing

If you’re waiting to be told what to do, you are not exercising your personal leadership.

Via The 8th Habit:

“Until then, people think that only those in position of authority should decide what must be done.  They have consented, perhaps unconsciously, to being controlled like a thing.  Even if they perceive a need, they don’t take the initiative to act.  They wait to be told what to do by the person with the formal title, and then they respond as directed.  Consequently, they blame the formal leader when things go wrong and give him or her the credit when things go well.  And they are thanked for their ‘cooperation and support.’”

You Don’t Need Others to Change

You don’t need others to change, to change your circumstances.  Change yourself first.

Via The 8th Habit:

“This widespread reluctance to take initiative, to act independently, only fuels formal leaders’ imperative to direct or manage their subordinates.  This, they believe is what they must do in order to get followers to act.  And this cycle quickly escalates into codependency.  Each part’s weakness reinforces and ultimately justifies the other’s behavior. 

The more a manager controls, the more he/she evokes the behaviors that necessitate greater control or managing.  The codependent culture that develops is eventually institutionalized to the point that no one takes responsibility.  Over time, both leaders and followers confirm their roles in an unconscious pact.  They disempower themselves by believing that others must change before their own circumstances can improve.  The same cycle reappears in families between parents and children.”

Look Inside, Not Outside

Our nature is to look outside, but we need to first look within.

Via The 8th Habit:

“The silent conspiracy is everywhere.  Not many people are brave enough to even recognize it in themselves.  Whenever they hear the idea, they instinctively look outside themselves.  When I teach this material to large audiences, I often pause after a couple of hours and ask the question, ‘How many like this material, but feel that the people who really need it, aren’t here?’  They usually explode in laughter, but most hands go up.

Perhaps you, too, are thinking that people who really need a book like this aren’t reading it.  That very thought reveals codependency.  If you look at this material through the weaknesses of another, you disempower yourself and empower their weaknesses to continue to suck initiative, energy, and excitement from your life.”

What can you do about it?

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  1. Reading over all of this, I keep coming back to how much this is all made easier when you get the right people on your team.

    I created a cycle of codependency on a project recently when the company we contracted to do some work kept dropping the ball. Because the deadline was approaching so quickly, I picked up the ball to make sure the fallout was avoided. But it really fueled the problem. My attempted solution ended up being my real problem 🙁 Digging deeper, I began to see that the real solution would have been confrontation. And an even better solution would have been to hire a better company to do the work.

  2. JD,
    Being managed as things – bad, bad, bad. I developed very think skin for that yet it still strikes me when I am exposed to talks around “heads” and “resources.” Inspring it is not. No inspiration no leadership.

  3. @ Aaron — I like your example and introspection.

    That’s actually part of the trick … defining what “the right people” are, and what a “better company” really means.

    As one of my mentors puts it, “Do you know what you need to be successful?” It’s a great question to help identify and make explicit what the criteria really is. And when we know and assert our criteria, it’s easier to fulfill it.

    @ Alik — It definitely sucks the life force out.

    My most effective managers always put people first. At work, our team has the mantra, “People before business. Business before technology.”

    It makes a difference.

  4. I am working on living my values and modelling the behavior that I think represents the values I live by. I am so often aware that others are opposed to my behaviors and that I must include ways to assist folks with trust in what I am doing and in what they find inside themselves to act upon.

    Practicing trust in the self and in others is quite a bit deal.

    I am worried that much of the style of teaching our children these days by parents and schools involves co-dependent regimes for success.

    I am an introvert, and often become aware that the “others” in my life assume I am responsible to doing all the work. This is no longer a compliment, just exhausting, and then I feel that I have failed in leading or inspiring others

  5. @ Patricia — I commented to a friend the other day that I wish “The Little Engine that Could” was required reading. I think linking self-reliance with effort and internal reward are important to “make it” in today’s world.

    One of the keys to inspiring and leading others is leading with your “why.” For example, when I lead folks down some new paths, I share a sharp picture of the future, anchored to drivers and trends. I draw my vision on the whiteboard. This helps people “see” how and why the future can be compelling.

    I also listen for key concerns. If I can embrace the concerns, and take away the threats, this helps others follow.

    As Dr. Rick Kirschner says, “resistance is a result”, and it always leaves clues we can use to tailor our approach.

    We only fail if we give up … otherwise, we are learning, responding, and adapting.

  6. Ah, yes, I’ve heard countless times people blame their circumstances on their management. Sure, it’s ideal to have great leadership. Yet to behave helplessly, to flounder, & worst of all to make excuses for not performing optimally is an example of learned helplessness. It’s an inside job to reach inside–to be brave–to succeed & excel in spite of circumstances–whether it’s management or anything else. Thanks for the great reminder, J.D.

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