take a path to greatnessWhy take a path to mediocrity when you can take a path to greatness?

I have been reflecting lately on how much of the coaching work I do with business leaders is about helping people climb the ladder to becoming CEO and achieving stellar levels of compensation. This is all well and good, but there is a discrepancy between this and the heart of Masterful Coaching, which is about helping leaders do something to make a difference in their worlds.

This isn’t just about getting to the top by climbing over a pile of bodies and winning. It is about taking responsibility for throbbing human needs and wants and making a contribution. When I work with leaders, I always challenge them to expand themselves to include this dimension. I believe this is what being successful in politics, business, education, and medicine is all about.

It’s my belief that every human being was born to be great…wants to be great…not average or mediocre.

When people are not great, I see three reasons: 1) no one has ever encouraged them to find greatness in their lives; 2) they don’t know what greatness looks like for them or how to get there; or 3) they haven’t had enough of an experience of operating in a stratospheric place.

The first step is to change your personal ideology from defining success in in terms of making a living to defining success in terms of making a difference.

Your life is meant to be lived in the most meaningful way you can. This means in business parlance that you not only have to have a game changing strategy, product, and service that has an impact on life, but you also deploy it effectively into the market. If you don’t do this, you are stealing from yourself, your family, and all the people whose lives you could be enriching.

Steve Jobs was the best entrepreneur of our generation, leading a revolution no matter what he was doing—computers, iPods, iPhones, films, and so on. His life is a testimony to the fact that it is possible, if you have a commitment to building insanely great products and services, you can both make a difference and make money too. If he can do it, you can too.

The key to your success is going to be determined by how strategic you are, how you use your time to execute, and how you connect to other people.

There are five philosophical pillars that every business leader should keep in mind.

1) Personal Ideology. Why take a path to mediocrity when you and your company could take a path to greatness? You have the power to make, not just mediocre, but truly great products. You have the ability to not just sell people something that solves the problem in front of their noses, but also to transform theirs and their family’s lives for years to come, if not generations.

2) Define an Impossible Future in Service of a Cause. In many ways, being great and making a difference is about helping people realize a goal or aspiration they did not know they had. Rattan Tata of Tata Motors realized that, given rising needs and aspirations, there was a huge car market for a car under $3000. With the introduction of the Nano, people who drove motor scooters in India and who were frequently getting in body-maiming accidents have been now able to purchase and drive a car. Tata now owns 17% of the car market in India.

3) Strategy Innovation. To be great, you need to be strategic with respect to all the other “me too” competitors in your industry. If you do, your results will go up exponentially. Most business people don’t have a game-changing strategy. They are absolutely tactical. Even if they have a game changing strategy, they don’t consistently deploy tactics that advance the strategy. Match your strategy to your cause, and implement tactics that support it.

4) Marketing. Marketing is not about putting one over on people; it’s about educating the customer with messages about their aspirations and needs, and your company’s commitment to guide them to achieve that. Whether you are selling a college education, dream house, or smart phone, it’s the ability to provide people a vision that allows them to project forward where they can imagine having what you offer. It’s the ability to get them to trust you at an absolutely unquestioned level.

5) Social Networking, Relational Capital, and Distribution. If the products and services you offer really do make a difference in people’s lives, it will be talked about over social networks. This gives you relational capital with all kinds of people and opens up relationships and distribution channels that were previously closed to you. In closing, a soon-to-be-famous entrepreneurial business leader once caught JP Morgan on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The entrepreneur said, “I have a great business idea, but I need capital.” JP Morgan said, “Ok, I like your idea. Just walk back and forth across the floor of the Stock Exchange with me four times, and when people see you with me and that I am interested in you, you will get all the capital you want.”


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