In a previous post, I wrote that qualities of character in the CEO were a more important indicator of business success than the business model. In this, and the next few posts, I’m going to share those qualities that I believe mark a great business leader.
First, a disclaimer. This is one person’s point of view. This is not the result of some study that surveyed 10,000 business owners. Instead, it is the result of my personal, anecdotal experience. I’ve spoken to and with thousands of business executives in the US and other countries, and personally and contractually worked with over 400 of them. I have, I believe, achieved a breadth of experience in the world of business that, coupled with a touch of wisdom, has a validity of its own.
With that disclaimer behind us, let’s tackle the subject.
Here’s my nomination for a character trait that fuels business success: A continuous quest for MORE.
Let’s define MORE.
I’m not talking about greed here, although money is a part of it. MORE refers to the concept that, in every aspect of one’s life and business, there are greater heights to be experienced, greater accomplishments to achieve, greater impact to be had, greater knowledge to be obtained, greater wisdom to be acquired, greater good to be done, and, yes, more money to be made, more customers to acquire, more revenue to realize, more markets to penetrate, more employees to hire, more influence to extend. Regardless of where you are at, there is always MORE.
For a person with this character trait, the status quo is never acceptable. The status quo is only today’s version, and this moment’s situation. It’s a temporary circumstance which can be made better. After all, there is always MORE.
These people are driven by a sense of positive discontent. They believe, at the core of their being, that there is MORE to be accomplished. I often say this is my seminars:
“If there is nothing more you want to acquire, nothing else you want to achieve, nothing you want to become, no one else you want to impact – if you are perfectly content with every aspect of your life and career – then you will not grow, you will not achieve, you will not become a person greater than you are now.”
I am hardly the first person to uncover this trait. Similar sentiments have been expressed by folks far wiser than I.
“The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.” Nathanial Hawthorn
Every invention, every institution, every organization traces its inception to a person who was discontent with something. Every effort to improve, either oneself or the world outside, begins with an impulse of discontent. If you are perfectly content, then the status quo, the world defined by the events of yesterday (Hawthorn’s ‘ancient limits’) is acceptable.
“Restlessness and discontent are the necessities of progress.” Thomas Edison.
Here’s a similar thought from another mover and shaker in the world. If you are perfectly content with the status quo – in this case, reading by candle light – there is no reason to expend the energy to invent the light bulb. Every invention and every attempt at progress begins with a person driven to create MORE.
Let’s borrow one more from the world of sports:
“We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi
Can you imagine a team – any team from elementary school to the pros – beginning the season with the coach pronouncing that “We are as good as we hope to be – we cannot become better, either individually or as team, so we are not going to practice. We are perfectly content with are current level of proficiency.”
The thought is ludicrous. The very idea of sports or team competitions of any kind implies a core drive to become better – to become MORE.
The quest for MORE is the engine which drives human progress in every sphere of activity.
MORE expresses itself in different ways and in different situations. In every individual’s life and in every organizations tenure, MORE can call for a focus that shifts from one aspect to another.
At the inception of an organization, MORE may show itself as discontent with a problem that calls to be solved, or a yearning for more freedom or a more substantial income on the part of the entrepreneur. Most mission or vision statements reflect a quest for MORE. Organizations with motivational visions always express, in that vision, a rendering for MORE.
As an organization grows and evolves, MORE can morph to a calling to be a more positive force in the market or in its employees lives. Some organizations shift their desire for MORE to a more spiritual focus, driving the organization to become a positive spiritual force in the lives of its employees and stakeholders.
The same is true for individuals. Early in adulthood, MORE may focus on more education, or a better job. Later, it may call for a yearning for a more intimate relationship with a spouse, or to become a more effective parent. Later still, MORE can light upon more economic security, greater influence, more friends. MORE shifts with time and age.
But, in this article, we are focusing specifically on business success. I have seen successful businesses where none of the executives evidence a degree for MORE. However, their success is always temporary and usually inherited. The owners may have inherited a business from their parents, or purchased it from the entrepreneurs who began it, and now are perfectly content with the status quo. No one drives for MORE. Having gained the advantage of years of experience and the long-term perspective that brings, I find that, inevitably, a few years later, that business is struggling.
And that brings me back to where I started. Not everyone is driven by MORE. While I have no data other than personal experience, I suspect that the majority of people on the planet are more motivated by attaining comfort and contentment than they are drive by MORE. The continuous, quest for MORE is one of the character traits that defines the owners and executives who drive successful organizations. It is, therefore, a rare commodity. However, without it, few organizations can sustain success over time, and few individuals will ever achieve their purpose in life.###
Sales people sell better when managers manage better!