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Good To Better

If you have been in leadership for at least twenty years, you are probably familiar with Jim Collin’s Good to Great, and perhaps even Built to Last. These are two well-known books that take a closer look at organizations and the role of leadership within those that were successful and sustainable at the time. However, I am writing about growing from Good to Better, the title of this month’s article, because organizations are comprised of individuals: individuals that remain loyal to an organization over the course of their career and individuals who transition out of the organization for a variety of reasons. As with organizations, some individuals begin with more than others, while others must work harder to get half as far. While I think that the talent vs. hard work argument may have been sufficiently discussed, I wonder if I am presently as productive as I will ever be, or if there is room to get a little better.


The train of thought that leads me to write on the theme of Good to Better seems to run parallel to the notions of self-leadership or taking responsibility for one’s personal development. What I am trying to emphasize with the phrase Good to Better is that self-leadership, self-improvement, and personal growth should be thought of as more than an event, goal, or even a series of events and goals; they are all about process. You may have heard of life-long learning, but have you considered the notion of life-long growing before? At the time of this writing, there is a buzzing trend: the most productive decade of our lives is our sixties, the second in our seventies, and the third in our fifties. This trend illustrates the importance of personal longevity and sustainability! Allow me to suggest four broad areas to consider for ongoing personal improvement.


First, consider your physicality. Even if you are not an Olympic or professional athlete, eating, drinking, exercising, and resting well should be of obvious importance. In a sense, we have been given only one donkey to ride and the better we care for it, the more likely it will take us where we want to go. Just to clarify, I am talking about taking care of our bodies!


Second, consider your emotional intelligence and relationships. There will be times and places when solo work will be preferable or required, but the development of knowledge and skill happens best in community. If you do not know how to value and get along with those who are different from you, your development will be limited to who and what you already know.


Third, consider your intellectual development. Not everyone of us can become a certified Mensa genius or a polyglot, but we can and should develop curiosity, read regularly, discuss with people the things we are learning about, and pursue those who appear to know things we do not know. If nothing else, such a stance toward lifelong learning will prevent dementia and mental inertia.


And fourth, do not forget the element of spirituality. Whether or not you consider yourself to be religious, someone who believes and lives as if “he who dies with the most toys wins” or “you only live once” will live a very different life than someone who believes “we all die once and face judgment.” Are you already as good as you will ever be? Or can and will you get better?


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