Insights for Leaders

Constant Improvement

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  — Winston Churchill

According to Tom Peters in his #1 best seller, In Search of Excellence, “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence — only in constant improvement and constant change.”

Even when change is in our best interest our inclination is to resist. The reality of change is that we must reform our habits, reshape our values, alter our relationships, or adopt new responsibilities. For most people, that is too much work — for those in search of excellence, it is a requirement.

The Bottom Line: Leaders challenge the status quo and embrace change with the goal of constant improvement and excellence.

Innovate or Decline

“An established company which, in an age demanding innovation, is not able to innovate, is doomed to decline and extinction.” — Peter Drucker

Creative genius Walt Disney agreed with Mr. Drucker saying, “I’ve always maintained that you just can’t coast.  If you do, you go backwards.  It’s just a slow way of liquidating.”

The human tendency is to coast and get comfortable – a position from which we feel more safe and in control.  Even the most brilliant can resist innovation.  In 1981, Bill Gates declared, “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”  If Mr. Gates had held to this conviction, Microsoft would be long gone. 

The Bottom LineLeaders understand they must be engaged in a never ending process of constant innovation and improvement.

Achieving Greatness

“Good is the enemy of great.  And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” — Jim Collins, Good to Great

When Tiger Woods changed his golf swing in 2003, most people criticized because he did not win a major in 2003 or 2004, failing to dominate the game as before.  With yesterday’s five shot win at the British Open, on top of his victory this year at the Masters, he is once again dominating the sport.  Tiger’s “good” golf swing was the enemy of his “great” swing.

As Tiger has demonstrated, what you are doing well may be the barrier to your next breakthrough.  For example, if you are a ”good” leader, you may be blocking the greater growth of your organization by not empowering others to lead with you.  Mario Andretti said it this way, “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.”

The Bottom Line:  Leaders have the vision and courage to let go of the good in pursuit of what is truly great.

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