We are in a study and discussion of Gary Burnison’s recently published book titled, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership. Burnison is CEO of Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm.
In the first chapter, Burnison writes “To be a leader is not to compete with anyone else, whether it’s your predecessor, a peer, or a role model. You’ve got to play your own game.”
John Wooden, the incredibly successful UCLA basketball coach made the same point over and over to all of his NCAA championship teams – and in all of his subsequent best-selling leadership books. Wooden’s star players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton have written that Wooden would rarely mention opponents or competitors, even the team they would be playing next! Wooden would go week’s – even months without ever mentioning an opposing team or the upcoming NCAA championship series!
Wooden and his teams did not prepare to compete against a specific competitor, team, or teams. They prepared to become the very best that they were capable of becoming!
Wooden never focused on the next competitor, or any competitor. He focused only on leading, teaching and training his team, both individually and collectively to become the very best that they could be. Nothing less – nothing more. Wooden knew that to become more than you are capable of becoming – to become more than your very best, regardless of your competitors – is impossible!
“I learned this lesson years ago when I played competitive golf. When you’re on the course, you don’t think about the other players or the gallery watching you. Your focus has to be 100 percent on what matter most, which is the shot you’re about to take.
The same is true for leaders, who cannot afford to be distracted by outside forces that allow one’s ego to get involved. What matters most is the organization – where it is headed and the team’s ability to get there. That’s the game that’s being played, here and now.”
Who are you competing with? Far and away, the number one priority in leadership and life is to compete with yourself – focusing on improving and becoming the very best that you can be!