Sunday, August 23, 2009

Four Points of Separation - Evaluating Your Rise as a Leader

In his book, Winning Every Day, Legendary football coach Lou Holtz shares a story about taking his Notre Dame team to the Sugar Bowl to face the Florida Gators. Notre Dame was the underdog, could they pull it out?

Holtz recalls taking his family to dinner one night before the game where he shared his optimism and how he believed his team could win the game. Holtz said, “I felt like I was on top of the world. While taking our order, the waiter scrutinized me a bit before asking, “Aren’t you Lou Holtz, the Notre Dame coach?” When I told him I was, he said, “Let me ask you a question. What’s the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios?” I didn’t know. He answered, “Cheerios belong in a bowl, Notre Dame doesn’t.”

Holtz remembers how upset he was over the incident but held to his belief that they could win. Holtz added, “I shrugged off my anger and reminded myself that I knew what our team could do; it didn’t matter what anybody else thought. That’s the attitude you have to carry into life.” In the end, Notre Dame defeated the Gators 39-28.

In leadership I have often wondered, at what point do you separate yourself from others around you, your competition, and your colleagues and move to a higher level? What is the tipping point when a leader parts company with those around him- even when others have equal or greater talents?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines separation as “the place at which a division or parting occurs.” I believe this division or parting in leadership occurs as you identify these four processes.

Leadership separation occurs when you embrace your dream. How many times have you heard someone say, “One of these days I am going to…?” What separates you is when you embrace your dream and dare to act on it. There is a time to ponder and there is a time to act.

In his new book, Put Your Dream to the Test, John Maxwell writes, “I don’t know what you desire to accomplish or who you will need to include to see your dream come to fruition. You may need only the encouragement and care of one other human being to help you keep going. Or you may need an army. Regardless of your situation, I can tell you that you do need others. The bigger the dream, the greater your need. But here’s the good news: the size of your dream determines the size of the people who will be attracted to it.”

Separation in leadership occurs when you embrace your dream and dare to achieve it. While others continually talk about “one of these days”, you are doing it.

Leadership separation occurs when you excel with passion. Passion is what keeps you up late at night and gets you up early in the morning. Passion is the driving force that transforms you from average to great.

Denis Diderot said, “Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to do great things.” A leader breaks from the pack when he embraces his dream with a passion unlike anyone else. Passion is one of those rare commodities that resides deeper than head knowledge of a plan or product. Passion resonates from the heart and inspires you to go farther.

Leadership separation occurs when you empower your team. When a leader goes to the next level he doesn’t go alone- it’s a team effort. Joe Paterno said, “When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.” Nothing propels confidence like an empowered team committed to achieving common goals.

Rising to the next level is a team effort. Yogi Berra said, “Every organization needs team players. People you can always depend on.” I believe that is especially true in todays environment. Empowered team members will take you farther than you can go by yourself. The more you empower your team, the farther you can go.

Leadership separation occurs when you enjoy the journey. I can’t imagine anything worse than not enjoying the journey. I have seen up close the effects of the rat-race and how it robs one of enjoying the moment. Ones dream, passion, and team efforts mean little if you are miserable.

When the late Nadine Stair of Louisville, Kentucky was 85 years old, she was asked what she would do if she had her life to live over again.

“I’d make more mistakes next time,” she said. “I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously, I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.”

Nadine reminds us to enjoy the journey; after all, getting there is half the fun.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

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