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Just returned last night from three days at our company’s home office in the Dallas suburb of Addison, Texas. I suppose the meetings looked much like what you would find at any corporate gathering. Celebrating victories and inspiring new ones, increasing location alignment and sharpening brand awareness, equipping and empowering the team, sumptuous dinners and strong coffee.
But my thoughts gather this morning around a short list of simple examples that were set before us. Disney, Rolex, Apple, and Lamborghini. Our speaker has carried with him since childhood an affection for Walt’s magical World of Micky and Minnie, an affection I suspect shared by pretty much every one of the rest of us. Our speaker, we discovered, has also taken many a slow breezy walk through the Rolex store, has stopped to make purchases in Apple’s, and seems to have shed a drop of salivate or two over those fantastic little cars from Italy. He went on, as expected, to engage the business speak of the how marvelous these companies are and of what makes them marvelous. He made his points and drew his conclusions. We all nodded our heads and clapped in agreement.
These four companies — and hopefully ours — inspire greatness. Because greatness is contagious.
And all of this came to mind as I’ve been finishing Brendon Burchard’s little book The Motivation Manifesto. Burchard calls us to not only strive for greatness in our own lives but to create avenues of calling those around us to greatness as well. We may very well follow his example and write a book out of such purpose or maybe we’ll design other outlets. But either way, Burchard envisions the steady evolution of a grand society constructed by the mutual inspiration we instill in one another.
And Burchard calls us to consider what he calls “The Nine Virtues of Greatness.” Comprising just one of the Nine Declarations featured in his subtitle, we begin to identify Burchard’s affection for the number 9. But either way, he for good reason calls us to consider this little collection of Greatness Virtues. I do too. And I thus share them with you humbly yet emphatically:
- “Let us demand Honesty.” That we not only be straight shooters ourselves, but that we also demand candid straightforward talk from others as well. Empathy is good. Polish helpful. But airbrushed flattery or exaggerated claims of accomplishment create a sense of confidence that is overweight, performance that is lethargic, and ingenuity that is stifled.
- “Let us demand Responsibility.” Ambitious projects or everyday tasks. That we not only accept and execute as we promised we would, that we not only take ownership, but that we then call others to do the same and refuse to manufacture excuses for them when they fail. That we “activate and encourage a more responsible nature in those we encounter.” The easy route allows others to freewheel through life without consequence, but to call others to join in something greater, and to then demand their follow-through, this is the work of real leadership.
- “Let us demand Intelligence.” That we push ourselves to dig deeper and think bigger. That we consume data and stretch perspective. That we listen to others and continually expand and evolve our own understanding. And that we then call others to do the same. “If we are to be great, we must take responsibility to help others learn, explore, think critically, and grow in wisdom.” Greatness requires expansion and this no less in the cognitive sphere than in the physical and social.
- “Let us demand Excellence.” That we push ourselves and maximize opportunities in all we do. That we cut out distractions and eliminate small-minded endeavors toward that end. That we realize it’s only worth doing if it can be done well. And that we then diligently expect the same of others. Leaders set objectives and engage measurements. They model it in themselves and stimulate it in others. “We have no need to worry about cutting poor performers loose: they will quickly be picked up and find their own place. This is not being dismissive or cruel or unappreciative; it is simply allowing people to find out where their level of contribution and talent is really needed. We do not judge them and we need not seek to ‘fix’ them.” But to just close our eyes or offer empty words of cotton-candy affirmation will only serve to inflate their misdirection and cripple their future success. And it will do the same for ours.
- “Let us demand Courage.” That we identify obstacles, fears, and injustices, those both internal and external, both spontaneous and structural. That we then determine not to let ourselves back down from the goal and gird up the inner strength to rise and confront. And that we rally those around us to fearlessly conquer that which fashions threats against them as well. That we collectively move forward and conquer.
- “Let us demand Respect for Others.” That we work to eliminate all trace of discrimination, assumption, and presumption from our own framework and interaction. That we recognize the dignity of each and every human being regardless of race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, and religious identification or lack thereof. Regardless of past mistakes or future goals. That we treat all people with respect and that we demand others do the same. That we stand up against injustice. That we call others to a higher standard. “Do not tolerate any behavior that is dismissive, cruel, or condescending. Should we fail at this, then we ourselves become unworthy of respect.”
- “Let us demand Vigilance.” That we never give up. And that we inspire others to keep up the good work as well. When responsibility and excellence meet courage, vigilance is close at hand. And when such virtues are found in community, vigilance rages like a fire of progress.
- “Let us demand Service.” That we never forget the tribe of humanity which we strive with and for. That our work ultimately be for the betterment of one another. That even in our profits and financial successes, we build up and not tear down. That we as neighbors willingly and collectively roll up our sleeves and get to work, accomplishing that which defeats mere individuals but bends to the masses.
- “Let us demand Unity.” That we extinguish from our own lives the tempting yet corruptive indulgences of gossip and exclusion. That we call others to join us in looking for ways to rally and build and bond. That we vigilantly focus on what brings together rather than what divides. And it is here where our efforts of the total grow with increasing momentum and strength. It’s here where we become united in greatness and where it’s presence multiplies as far as the witness of its inspiration can reach. Here where greatness becomes an epidemic.
Maybe this list grows a little long at around the Number Five or Six mark. Or maybe demanding a greater attention span ought be appended as a Number Ten. Either way, I found this list to light a crackling little fire under my seat this morning. It is certainly true, after all, that some of what you find above may go a bit further than where Burchard takes it. But I think that’s okay. May you take it even further than I have. And may we all inspire an all-encompasing level of greatness in the world around us. A greatness that manifests itself in our businesses and families, our neighborhoods and governments, our school systems and nonprofit initiatives.
But first, before it does any of that, we must find its progress chiefly in ourselves. For only then do we gain the credibility to demand it of others.
Honesty, responsibility, intelligence, excellence, courage, respect, vigilance, service, and unity. Disney, Rolex, Apple, and Lamborghini. Greatness is contagious. May you and I begin to see more of its symptoms.