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Leading for long term success

Leading for Long-Term Success

If you’re in it for yourself, your people will never be in it for you. Ever. 

I observed this throughout my corporate career, and came to see it as a fundamental truism of leadership. Self-seeking leaders can’t get the best out of their people, because it’s almost impossible to rally them to a higher purpose. 

One of the keys to unlocking your people’s discretionary effort, and stretching them to perform at the next level, is that you have to subordinate short-term considerations for the greater good.

This means, at the very least, being willing to sacrifice your own personal comfort, and your own short-term rewards, so that you can focus on the great good, and the long-term picture. This takes conscious effort, because we’re programmed differently.

If you do the very best you can, at every point, for your team and the organization you work for, without focusing constantly on yourself, you will ultimately be better off in the long run. 

In Ep.29 of the podcast, I talked about Tom Brady, who is regarded as the GOAT of American Football. He won more NFL championships than any other individual. Even since I recorded the episode in early 2019, Brady won another championship–with a completely different team! The 7 superbowl championships in his personal career tally is more than any other team has won in the 55 years of the superbowl era! 

12 of the 32 teams currently competing are yet to win a single title.

How did Brady do this? He subordinated his short-term interests to the long-term objective of winning championships. He could have made a lot more money in the contract negotiations he undertook during his 23-year career.

But he chose to forego the personal rewards that he could have claimed so that his team had more capacity to spend money on other players. According to analysis undertaken by Business Insider Magazine, Brady sacrificed between $60m and $100m in personal earnings over his career with the NE Patriots.

Of course, we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him: he didn’t have any concerns about where his next meal was coming from, based on his career earnings of over $300m. But he did something that very few people manage to do: he put his own ego and short-term interests aside in order to give his team the best chance of winning superbowls… 

I learned a lot from my mentors over the course of my career about putting self-interest aside so that I could do the best thing possible for the long term good of the company… and I embedded four powerful beliefs:

  1. If I do the very best thing I can for my people, the organization, and its stakeholders, at any given point, it will ultimately be noticed and rewarded.
  2. If I never compromise my values, I’ll always appear consistent, and this will build trust and commitment in my team.
  3. The job is never as important as my values: I’m happy to leave if there’s a values mismatch, because if there is, that’s a sure sign it’s not a company that I want to work for, anyway…
  4. I’m happy for any decision I make and the intent and rationale behind that decision to be published on the front page of the newspaper, as I’m confident of my integrity and that I’m doing the right things for the right reasons.

Now arguably, there have been times in my career that I’ve been disadvantaged financially because of my adherence to these principles. But there’s one thing I have today that, when I talk to other people, seems to be quite rare:

I can look myself in the mirror every morning and be confident and comfortable in who I am, and the way I choose to do things. That’s absolutely priceless and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

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