Leading For Excellence Isn't About Meeting the Standard

May 18, 2021 2 min read
Leading For Excellence Isn't About Meeting the Standard

Leading for excellence is about doing something different. Going beyond what is expected.

When we think of excellence, we think of something outstanding. Of quality. The very best there is. But it is not a steady state to be achieved.

Leading for excellence is about setting the standard.

Is Leading for Excellence Doing Something Different?

No, excellence has to be more than this. For the athlete, it is about the striving, not only the arriving. Being at the top of your game isn’t always enough. Sooner or later, someone will do something different. Something better.

The same applies in leadership. Leading for excellence isn’t about meeting the standard, it’s about setting the standard. It’s about innovation.

This reminds me of It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, where he took on the worst ship in the fleet and made it the best. And he did this by doing things different. His leadership demonstrated innovation.

By my definition, Abrashoff is a lazy leader. He learned that a leader must learn “the important, long-range issues and delegate power.” What he did on the Benfold was to break the mould and do what others before him didn't do.

Innovation knows no rank. — Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

He trusted his team and empowered them to deliver change. In so doing, he earned trust and respect, and did what he was there to do: deliver results. And it is entirely this that the lazy leader should be measured.

Innovation at Work Is to Change the Rules

In work, we are often governed by policy and procedure. We are expected to follow the rules. But keeping your head down and sticking to the rules rarely gets outstanding results.

We can only innovate and make progress when we have the courage to venture beyond procedure.

However, our teams will seldom step out of line unless we lead by example and create a climate of trust. Therefore, we must give people all the trust and responsibility they can handle to give them an opportunity to be their best.

Innovation can be as simple as showing people how to lead themselves to their solutions, and then to step out of their way.


Does your team think: We can do anything or expect you to shoot the messenger? When was the last time you did something about a rule that no longer works? You are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments.

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