Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Be Your Best

This is the 4th in a series addressing the key elements of a leadership philosophy. I call them the “7 BEs of a Leader.” Before assuming a new leadership position, Army pre-command training includes time to create one’s personal leadership philosophy. This is a great exercise, one that I have done deliberately many times. I have found that articulating my beliefs, my core values, and what exactly makes me tick are critical elements to share with my subordinates. Doing so, from the beginning, eliminates uncertainty – with subordinates and those whom I serve (customers, stakeholders, etc.) - and helps define the culture and leadership climate that I seek to create. It, like me, is a work in progress. So let me know what you think.

Be Your Best.

The world is full of “good enough” leaders. In “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins states that “good is the enemy of great.” Just being good enough is a business killer and a broken rung on the career ladder. Are you having a hard time getting up out of bed and getting inspired about work? Dare to be great. Be your best.

Even in high performing organizations, like the Army, I am continually amazed at the number of people who settle for mediocrity. They wake up, drag themselves off to work, do their jobs, and head back home. No passion. No energy. No desire to kick the crap out of the competition and win. That is why I picked out this picture of this wounded warrior. Be sure...this guy is not interested in just getting by. He's not lacking for passion. He's a warrior...interested in nothing less than doing his best.

Leaders must be focused on execution, on being the best. To do so means having hopes and dreams and daily taking steps to achieve them. Your best requires follow through and the drive and determination to make your good ideas a reality. It means volunteering for the project that no one else will touch. Those are the roads paved with high risk – and great reward. It means continually seeking opportunities for personal and professional development. It means taking chances – and taking charge.

One of my bosses would counsel his subordinates quarterly and focus the discussion on “above the line” activities. Everything in the standard performance objectives was “below the line” and he had no doubt they would be completed. He wanted to talk about the big goals, the new initiatives, and the wild ideas that would transform the organization. Being the best requires “above the line” effort - from the entire team. Our job as leaders is to get the best from each of them.

Competition is a good thing. Find creative ways to raise the bar for subordinates and the teams they lead – without putting them down. Look at those areas that are most important to the organization, those metrics that are central to the success of the company, and be the champion. Comparisons in functional areas such as profit, efficiency, customer feedback, overhead, and growth are what drive organizations and their leaders to greatness. Celebrate successes, and then raise the bar higher. Get out of bed with hunger and passion for making a difference. Be your best.

That’s Leader Business.

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