Last Saturday, my wife and I were in Salt Lake City with thousands of others to attend the memorial service for Stephen Covey. Covey was one of the most influential business authors of our generation, having penned the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in 1989 and then watched as the book sold more than 20 million copies. He authored several other amazing books that combined to sell another 20 million copies.
Several months ago his children asked if I would author their father’s biography, one of the great honors in my career. In the last few months I’ve gotten to know the Covey family and have reveled in the stories they’ve shared about how this amazing thinker came to shape the world.
At the memorial, which was public but also served as Stephen’s family funeral, each of his nine children stepped up and shared their greatest memories of growing up with a father that US Presidents and dozens of foreign leaders have asked for counsel. As we listened to each child, the word that hung over every story was “Authentic.” What made Stephen Covey so great as a leader – and as a father – was that “As good as he was in public, he was even better in private,” as his oldest son Stephen M.R. Covey said.
The youngest Covey child, Josh, was the last of the family to speak at the service. He told a story of being a young boy, four years old, who so wanted to be like his father that he wanted to dress just as he did, right down to wearing the same belt buckle. Then Josh told the story of being the final child to speak to his father the previous Sunday night, just hours before his father would pass, when the family gathered in his hospital room. Josh said he wanted desperately to have the right words to say in that moment. “I told my father that as a boy I wanted to be like him so I dressed like him,” Josh said as tears welled in his eyes. “Now as a man, I want to be like him so I want to live like him. As a boy, it was on the outside. As a man, I want to be like him on the inside.”
What a tribute.