December 28, 2011
Excellence. This is a term that we have grown quite used to in sport. It refers to reaching a level of performance that makes us truly unique in comparison to others. As athletes, coaches, and professionals, this is something that we are taught to strive for on a regular basis. However, from a leadership standpoint, it is the teaching of this process that is often neglected in the successful pursuit of excellence. More specifically, it is the lack of ability and/or willingness to model a standard of excellence that limits leaders from reaching their full potential. It is safe to say that few people understand this concept and even fewer learn to embrace it on a daily basis. The problem is that this is exactly what it takes to be truly great at leading people.
What is a Standard of Excellence?
The quote above pretty much best sums up what it means to set a standard of excellence. It starts with a vision to achieve something truly special in life. Once you have this, it is safe to say that you will be far more willing to put in the time necessary to develop a structure that will guide your decisions on a regular basis. This process will also allow you to identify the values that will guide your actions each day. However, it is important to note that this is only a start in your pursuit to make a difference in people’s lives. The truth is that setting a standard of excellence starts when you wake up EACH DAY with a passion to live life the right way (e.g., positive attitude, sound morals, regular investment in people). When you are committed to this level of excellence in leadership, you will spend each waking hour striving to make a difference in the lives of people around you.
The Benefits of Setting the Standard
When you invest in the type of activities that will allow you to become an outstanding leader (see John Maxwell‘s “The 5 Level’s of Leadership” chart below), you give yourself the opportunity to become the type of individual that people naturally want to follow. Equally important, the high standard that you set for yourself provides a model for the type of behaviors that you want your followers (e.g., colleagues and student-athletes) to embrace on a regular basis. In addition to cultivating the right type of culture on your team, you also develop the unique ability to make a difference in the lives of people around you. For Olympic coaches, this has a variety of benefits that can enhance sustainability initiatives (to be discussed in a future entry). The most important thing to note here is that it is this leadership standard that allows coaches to build a program that becomes truly unique within an athletic department environment. It is also the type of investment that sets the type of standard that can change the sport as a whole in the future.
Why Setting Standard Matters?
Very few people are interested in living the type of life that will truly make a difference in the world. Yet these are exactly the type of individuals that we need in sport (and the world) to encourage positive change. In Olympic sports, it will take a collaborative effort from coaches across the United States to maximize the effectiveness of sustainability efforts. While certain initiatives occur at the national level, the most important actions will take place on a daily basis at the local level. When coaches regularly invest in a high standard of excellence each day, they put into motion a leadership initiative that will positively influence student-athletes and their program forever. Somebody will make this decision today and it will forever change their impact on people. It is my hope that this person is you.
“Success is the Masterful Application of the Fundamentals on a Daily Basis” (Robin Sharma)