by Paul Kiser
I just read Dr. Bret Simmons blog post, Give Yourself Permission to Be Excellent. Excellence is a topic I fell in love with back in the 1980’s when Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote the iconic book, In Search of Excellence. In that book I finally found someone who confirmed that business as usual is not good enough.
Fortunately, the President of the hospital I worked at then had also read the same book and for two years I experienced what business could be when unleashed from the confines of the unimaginative and uncaring. All the ‘can’t-be-done’ stupidity had to face the light of day and it didn’t fare well when the control was removed from those who saw themselves as the ‘protectors’ of traditions. The hospital (run by a strict religious-based organization) grew and flourished under the new leadership. The facility kept it’s core values while eliminating most of the dysfunctional ideas that held it back.
But there was a price for those who pioneered the concept of excellence over authority. Those people came under scrutiny. Any mistake or failure was seized as proof positive that the people involved in effort of change were flawed….not that their ideas were flawed, but that the people were.
In Dr. Bret Simmons’s Blog he talks about the risk in striving for excellence and helps us understand why ‘risk’ happens.
Dr. Bret states that mediocrity abides by the current rules and to strive for excellence means defining new rules. Most people wait for someone in authority to define the new rules and in most cases those in authority fear risking his or her position by breaking new ground. Thus it takes a ‘champion’, as Tom Peters liked to call them, to step forward and make the new rules for everyone else.
However, once a person steps forward to lead the way they make themselves a target. Their peers ask, “Who are you to do this!!!” and they wait for the person to be struck down by someone in authority. The person in authority is embarrassed that they weren’t the one who took the bold action and so is predisposed to ‘put the person in their place.’ The result is that the person who leads the way is disliked…personally…by others in the organization.
The organization that lacks great leadership destroys champions, and make no mistake it takes GREAT leadership to love a champion. Good leadership toys with champions like a cat toying with a mouse. Good leaders are entertained by champions, but once they make an error the champion is lunch.
So why take the risk? Why not play it safe and color within the lines? George Carlin said, “Life is what we do while we are waiting to die.” It’s a matter of choice, but one can find purpose by being a champion and that can be a great feeling! So go ahead…put those red circles on your back and move out in front of everyone else. They can see the target easier when you’re in front…but then they have to live with the fact that they are always behind you.
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