Stephen Covey, whose 1989 book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” won millions of followers worldwide and helped fuse the genres of business and self-help, has died. He was 79.
He died today at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, of complications from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in Utah three months ago, according to a statement from his family. He was knocked unconscious in the April 19 crash in Provo, which occurred while he was riding downhill and wearing a helmet, according to an account in the Deseret News of Salt Lake City.
According to his website, Covey sold more than 20 million books in 38 languages and had four titles that each sold more than 1 million copies. In addition to “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” those were “First Things First,” “Principle-Centered Leadership” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.”
He also served as vice chairman of Salt Lake City-based Franklin Covey Co., an international business-consulting firm and maker of Franklin daily planners and the Franklin Covey Planning System. Franklin Covey was formed in 1997 when the Franklin Quest Co., which held seminars on time management, paid $160 million in stock for Covey’s Provo, Utah-based Covey Leadership Center.
Covey and Franklin Covey’s other co-founder, Hyrum W. Smith, stepped aside as co-chairmen in 1999 as part of the company’s plan to raise $75 million from investors by issuing preferred shares.
Calling Covey a “human-potential guru,” Time magazine in 1996 named him to its list of the 25 most influential people. “The essence of Covey’s message -- that self-knowledge and control must precede effective dealings with the world at large -- seems unremarkable,” the magazine wrote. To which Covey responded, “What’s common sense just isn’t common practice.”
Covey’s seven “habits” included setting priorities, taking initiative and seeking “win-win” relationships. His 2004 follow-up book, “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness,” urged his many adherents to find their “voice” -- their unique mixture of talent, passion, need and conscience -- “and inspire others to find theirs.”
Covey was born on Oct. 24, 1932, in Salt Lake City. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Utah in 1952, a master’s in business administration from Harvard University in 1957 and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Brigham Young University in 1976, according to a 2004 profile in USA Today. He taught at BYU for 24 years.
A devout Mormon, he spent time as a missionary in the U.K. in the 1950s, during which he proselytized on a soapbox in London’s Hyde Park, the newspaper reported. He always denied that religious beliefs, his or any others, were involved in his writings.
With his wife, Sandra, Covey had nine children and, as of 2009, 50 grandchildren, according to a story in the Dallas Morning News.