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Management Theory of Stephen Covey Key Terms

D. L. Patrick

Learn Covey's key terms practiced by highly effective principled leaders

The management theory of Stephen Covey explores the concept of principled-centered leadership and the development of intrinsic core values based on abundance mentality traditionally deemed secondary in the business world. The abundance mindset is a business concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and success to share with others. The key terms associated with Covey’s inside-out philosophy teaches a proactive leader that thinks "win-win" and creates productive employees who enjoy a higher level of job satisfaction. Leaders who operate within a service-oriented management style encourage the growth of optimistic subordinates working to achieve more than just external rewards.


Stephen Covey explains that a proactive attitude is the ability to respond to a situation by making a choice in advance, actively aware that the response has present and future consequences. This concept is the ability and attitude to rise above a knee-jerk reaction to choose a constructive response to create positive results in negative or difficult circumstances.


A habit is the place where knowledge, skills and willpower meet. Stephen Covey observed core values naturally practiced by people that encourage personal development centered on the power of choice. The theory found that habits practiced over time form principles or a value system that dictates personal action. The constructive practices espoused by Covey are a mind-set or attitude that claims serving others, not self-seeking extrinsic motivational methods.

Principle-centered leadership

This leadership style is an inside-out approach to developing people and organizations. One of Covey's habits of highly efficient people is the principle, "begin with the end in mind" which is the source of the vision carried out by a servant leader, a term synonymous with principle leadership. Principle-centered leadership is based on management leading with principles that internalized turn into "habits" rather than practices.


Win-win is a major principle as taught by Covey. Defined as the value of mutual benefit, this concept celebrates working together in the process of decision making with the goal of committing to a solution that benefits both parties in conflict, not merely agreeing to compromises. Covey wrote a separate book emphasizing the significance of leading with the intention to seek highest good for all involved as opposed to self-serving motives.


Covey's theory debunks independence as a myth at best and misleading with regards to relationships with humans and organizations. It's a practiced belief that interconnections are powerful and celebrates the idea of being in relationship to others linked by choices and decisions that impact every person in the business, market community and work team.

Synergize or Synergise

According to Covey, synergy is specifically defined as a creative process when two parties come together and negotiate or brainstorm to reach a solution. A synergistic solution presents a positive outcome that exceeds the expectations of all involved and is conditioned on the concept that the sum is greater than its parts.

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D. L. Patrick