Personal Leadership ; Article 1 in a series

2015-05-10 by Robert Pettersson

“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”

George Orwell 1984

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


Once in a while I get asked by colleagues and friends to provide some recommendations for how to further develop themselves and their careers. Reflecting on all of the people and ideas that have had an impact on myself, one person in particular stands out.

In 1989 the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey published a book called “7 habits of highly effective people”. In the 7 habits Dr. Covey describes a framework for personal effectiveness and improvement.

A set of 7 habits are presented, each habit is built upon the previous, which if implemented will enable a person to take control of his or her own life and more effectively exert positive influence on other people.

Today the book “7 habits of highly effective people” has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and has been translated to 40 languages. (1)

For his achievements Dr. Covey has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans. (1)

The “7 habits of highly effective people” has also been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential Business Management Books. (2)

The seven habits are:

  • Habit 1: Be proactive.
  • Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
  • Habit 3: Put first things first.
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win.
  • Habit 5: Seek first to understand.
  • Habit 6: Synergize.
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

To be proactive is more than simply to take initiative, it means that as human beings, we are all responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. To be proactive is the realization that we have the power and freedom to choose our own response to the conditions around us and the things that happen to us.

A reactive person instead is affected by their social environment, by the “social weather”. When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.

The ideas of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence are presented as a way to gauge one’s level of proactivity.







The Circle of Concern represent all the concerns that we have going about our daily lives. For example our financial situation, our health, our family, problems at work or school, the sovereign debt crisis, earthquakes in South America or the next election.

Circle of influence

As we look at all of the things within the Circle of Concern, we are able to divide these into two groups, things we can influence and things that we can not influence..things we can influence and things that we cannot influence. All the things we can influence are called the Circle of Influence, which is a subset of the larger Circle of Concern.

A way to become more self-aware of our own degree of proactivity is then to determine where we focus most of our time and energy.

Proactive persons tend to put most of their time and energy within the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about. This usually has the effect that their Circle of Influence increases over time.

Circle reactive effect

Reactive people on the other hand tend to focus their time and energy on things in the Circle of Concern, outside the Circle of Influence. They focus on the weaknesses of other people’s, problems in the environment or other things outside of their control. Their negative attitude usually has the opposite effect to their Circle of Influence, effectively shrinking it.

The next article in this series present Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.