Monday, May 5, 2014

Free Will Sacrifice

I spend a lot of time thinking about leadership, and more specifically what it takes to be an effective leader. So much is written about this topic (including this blog) that it almost seems impossible to read it all, process it in a timely way, and execute the approaches that make the most sense to us in our professional lives.

We have so many options to consider, perhaps we are over-thinking the core concepts of leadership; and in so doing, we're missing opportunities to achieve our primary goal of leading effectively.

Use The Data
The more I struggle with my own leadership and the behaviors of other leaders, I find myself returning to the work Jim Collins did relative to Level 5 Leaders. The piece in Harvard Business Review is a fantastic resource that describes what it takes to get to this lofty status.

Collins' data suggests that there are two primary behaviors that are essential for leaders to move beyond their own myopic view of the world: humility and fierce resolve.

When was the last time you tried that combination at the office?

What It Means To Me
Read the article, I don't need to reprise it here. The evolution in my thinking has shifted from Collins' focus areas and the subsequent hierarchy of achieving Level 5 status down to one word: sacrifice.


What comes to mind when you hear that word? Pain? Suffering? Loss of personal or professional freedom? 

Sacrifice to me means all of those things and more. It's a commitment to something more important than ourselves; yet at the same time it can be a selfish move too. Sometimes we make sacrifices for others or our organizations. In fact, that type of sacrifice has dominated much of my life.

There is another type of sacrifice. When we take risks to try new things...when we test out new strategies that others have been afraid to try...when we move out of our comfort zones...these are sacrifices too.  

When we are willing to sacrifice our credibility in order to achieve a breakthrough that could benefit our companies and ourselves, we are also making a sacrifice. Those sacrifices are not fact, most don't dare give them a try.

How About You
How do you define success? Are risk-taking and sacrifice part of your definition of effective leadership? For me, they are two of the most important pieces. Think about what is most important to you. This stuff matters.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.



  1. Jay,

    I'm so sorry...I feel really embarrassed about doing this...but I wanted to share an excerpt from a blog post that I wrote a few months back that I think closely resembles your thoughts on leadership:

    "Courage in Leadership

    Serving others and doing what’s right doesn’t come easy for some, especially when many corporate cultures value “fitting in” and “going with the flow.” Leaders must be able to find courage within themselves to remain morally true in their service to others. Courage is defined as the ability to step forward through fear. As Senator John McCain states: “Fear is the opportunity for courage, not proof of cowardice.”

    So what exactly does courage in leadership mean? For starters, courage in leadership means accepting responsibility. Leaders don’t wait for things to happen, they make things happen. Moreover, good leaders will always take responsibility for their failures and mistakes without trying to shift the blame onto others.

    More often than not, courage in leadership means non-conformity or going against the grain, breaking traditions, reducing boundaries, and being a catalyst for change.

    Courage in leadership means pushing beyond your comfort zones and working on developing a versatility that will meet the needs of your employees.

    Courage in leadership means not being afraid to ask for you need and saying what you think. A primary function of a leader is to influence others, to be able to do so means that at times you will need to speak out or speak up regardless of how your message will be received if it needs to be said.

    Lastly, courage in leadership means fighting for you believe in. Leaders often take risks, but a good leader will do so for a higher moral purpose. Find the courage to work toward achieving a change if it’s morally right and enhances your purpose of serving others."

    Jay my time in leadership roles (and for the record, I defer to the years of experience that you have over me) has taught me that leadership isn't an outward quality that people possess, but rather an inward transformation that drives individuals to achieve goals that they may not have been striving for in the first place. It's this transformative process that influences those around them, and it starts with basic values like: courage, honesty, and loyalty to name a few. Great leaders can play off of their strengths but will also confront their weaknesses constructively, and its not to promulgate their leadership ability, but rather to use their abilities in the service of others.

    I'm more than positive that your not far from the Level 5 that you're looking to achieve...self-awareness is another critical component of leadership, if you know what you need to work on, your ahead of the game. Needless to always, I am a fan of your work and I'm looking forward to your thoughts!


  2. Success to me Jay, used to be the job title, the money, the friends and relationships I thought "looked good". Now at 36 I know success is about being happy & healthy. Salary & status do not mean as much as quality of life, the passion in my work, and the depth of my relationships. In my mid 30s, I now consider myself to be successful because of the contentment I have found in simplicity.