One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is to begin with the end in mind. Many of us think that this means having a goal of some arbitrary destination or external result that we want to achieve like making a certain amount of money, working in a certain position, or winning a certain championship. But I want to challenge you to look higher and find something that is about more than just yourself and something that is about more than winning.
What is our desired end result? We can take any situation in our life and sit and reflect on what we ultimately want to get out of that situation. It could be our marriage, job, school, or sport. The second part of this is to reflect on our motivation for choosing that end result. Is it because society tells us making that amount of money, getting that job, or winning the games will make us happy? It is important to take the time to reflect on these things because the perspective that we have will determine what we focus on. And what we focus on will impact the end result.
In the movie Facing the Giants, a high school football coach who has not had a winning season and is facing pressure from parents and boosters to win develops a new philosophy. Rather than focusing on winning football games, he tells the players that the football field should be the arena in which they display the abilities God has given them and that they should be grateful to God whether they win or whether they lose. This is a bold move for someone who is on the verge of being fired for not winning enough games. The coach realized that even if they won the state championship they would eventually fade away and be forgotten if there was not a higher purpose to their efforts.
How You Run the Race
John Wooden said, “How you run the race--your planning, preparation, practice, and performance counts for everything--winning and losing is a by-product, and aftereffect, of that effort.” We must not let the end result negate everything learned and gained from the process. When we look at the technical aspects of the sport we are playing or the job we are in, we can usually point to some part of our planning, preparation, or practice that can be improved in order to impact the end result. At the same time, how we perform, in terms of sportsmanship, integrity, and class, can negate a positive end result. One of my favorite thoughts from motivational speaker Inky Johnson is “The process is more important than the product.” If we have to lie, cheat, or steal in order to win the game or get the business deal, then that victory is useless.
As the team in Facing the Giants discovered, we are actually freed up to give our best at all times by not focusing on the result. Many times we do not give our best out of fear. Fear that we may give our best and still not win. We feel that this makes us a failure. But when the process is most important we have a long-range vision that there is growth in every loss and it is another step in the right direction of the profit we are truly seeking. If we are truly seeking excellence and trying to be the best we can be, then we must hold ourselves accountable to always make the effort to be our best, regardless of the circumstances or outcomes. And when we always give our best, our best gets better and better, and performance naturally increases.
Good Leaders vs. Effective Leaders
Although they can be one and the same, being an effective leader does not guarantee that we are a good leader. For example, we can claim that Adolf Hitler was an effective leader. He was able to get people to follow him, he organized a military force that was able to conquer large areas of land, and he was able to execute a plan to exterminate large numbers of an ethnic population. But was Hitler a good leader? It would be very hard for us to justify Hitler as good from a moral perspective. But this is what happens when we look at the results and then try to justify the process.
Does this mean that everyone who focuses on results is like Adolf Hitler? Absolutely not. But the end of being an effective leader does not justify the means of being a bad leader. A boss who lies to their governing body so they can have a competitive advantage with their team may be an effective leader if their team wins an award, but has lost their integrity in the process. A coach who degrades their players and forces them to play through injuries may be an effective leader if their team wins a championship, but has lost their moral compass in the process.
By focusing on being a good leader, our external results and effectiveness will often improve. But even if the external results don’t improve, those are not the only results we should be looking at.
How are we running the race? There may be times when we have to sacrifice external results in order to be a good leader. But we are not really sacrificing. We are just choosing to rise above the results that society focuses on and focus on the results that help us win a different game...the game of integrity...the game of excellence...the game of relationships...the game of life.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski never has a goal to win a certain number of games or a national championship. He thinks that is too shallow and that we should define our success around the passion that moves us deep within our heart.
So what profit are we seeking? Are we trying to win OR are we trying to be the best we can be and enjoying the wins when they come as an aftereffect? Are we trying to be an effective leader OR are we trying to be a good leader and enjoying the results as a by-product. There will always be a profit, but our perspective will determine whether we earn a profit that will eventually fade away OR a profit that lasts forever.
Covey, Stephen. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. Simon & Schuster, 1989.
Facing the Giants. Sony Pictures, 2007.
Johnson, Inky. www.twitter.com/@inkyjohnson
Krzyzewski, Mike (with Donald Phillips). Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life. Grand Central, 2000.
Wooden, John (with Steve Jamison). Wooden on Leadership. McGraw-Hill, 2005.
This article originally published on September 25th, 2017.
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