by Jay Morrison

We can all thank Muriel Thomas Summers, the principal of A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, North Carolina, for being the first person to take the timeless 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and develop a formal process for teaching them to the students and teachers at A.B. Combs, beginning with students, age 5.

She comments about a session with Stephen Covey she attended as a student of leadership:

“Everyone was hanging on to every word being said. I believe they were sensing the very same thing that I was sensing, that what Dr. Covey was sharing was a set of timeless, universal principles.” She continued, “I found myself listening with the head of an administrator and the heart of a parent. And the more I listened, and the more I looked into the eyes of the people around me, the more I kept thinking, ‘Muriel, if you could teach this to young children, they would not have to wait until they were adults to learn these principles. If they looked through that lens for the rest of their lives, how different not only their lives might be, but how different our world might be.’ “

I couldn’t agree more with Muriel. What’s interesting about what happened next is that the parents and community members surrounding the school, when surveyed, didn’t even mention improving the academics of the school (failing at the time!) as something that critically needed to change. What they wanted to experience was a group of students who were responsible, caring, creative, compassionate, and who respected diversity and knew how to do the right thing when faced with a difficult decision. Wow!

A.B. Combs, which was about to close its doors, was transformed into a Leadership Magnet Elementary School, and the results were astounding. In fact, what all schools that implemented The Leader in Me program (reported in near unison) experienced within the first year included:

  • Improved student achievement
  • Significantly enhanced self-confidence and esteem in students
  • Dramatic increases in teachers’ and administrators’ job satisfaction and commitment
  • Greatly improved school cultures
  • Parents who are delighted and engaged in the process, and
  • Business and community leaders who want to lend support.

In fact, A.B. Combs’ enrollment doubled and now has a waiting list!

In the book it is clear, and recommended, that parents implement these same principles in the home. As I mentioned in my last post, that’s what I’m now embarking on. Anyone joining me out there? 🙂

So, my first assignment is to ensure that the 7 Habits are visible in our home so we can easily refer to them. For those of you who have not had the awesome opportunity of reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or taken a course, here they are:

1. Habit 1: Be Proactive

2. Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

3. Habit 2: Put first things first

4. Habit 4: Think win-win

5. Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

6. Habit 6: Synergize

7. Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

I’m not going to go over them in great detail at this time, but I will as we move ahead in blogging about this book and our activities at home. This week coming up, my plans are to do the following:

  • Have the kids help me to create some visual representation of the Habits throughout our home
  • Discuss the very basic concepts of each Habit
  • Brainstorm about ways each of us can make small steps to improve upon the first two Habits
  • Read books (age appropriate) that express the proper use of the principles (as recommended in the Parent’s Guide)

In thinking how this may work for us, I’m going to ask the kids to journal (I will help Nia with hers, since she is only 5!) about how they feel they are doing and what positive changes they are experiencing through using the Habits. My intentions, truly, are to have simple discussions, short weekly activities, and refer back to the principles as needed during our daily doings to reinforce their positive use. After all, we are very busy professionals and parents, and I want to ensure my children are able to grasp these concepts and make them theirs. At the same time, this is an opportunity for my husband and I to also reinforce these principles for our own good. I’m looking forward to taking action.

I hope you will join me for a nice discussion next week, as I hope to have some juicy nuggets of what’s working and what needs to work better!

On the leadership trail…


My Relaxed Book Club will discuss selections from books I feel help high-achieving professionals continue to develop themselves and work on their personal leadership leading to more fulfilled, balanced and successful lives and careers.