Be. Do. Well. Good.
I’ve been tumbling those four little words around in my mind for several years now, even using some combination of them as a whimsical email signature.
It is becoming clearer to me that those four words – in the right combination and sequences – really capture the essence of what it takes to be an effective leader today, but they also carve an inviting path to a more purposeful life.
Leadership commands energy, stamina, a good mental attitude, emotional intelligence and a sense of balance in your life. As my co-author Bob Parsanko and I said in our book The Leader’s Climb, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. It doesn’t surprise me anymore when my clients tell me that one of their top priorities is getting and staying healthy physically. There are poignant examples of people who have overcome afflictions to lead inspiring and productive lives, but the reality for most of us is that it helps to be fit – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – to shoulder the weight of life and make sure our energy will match the tasks we face. Staying in shape across those four human dimensions is a commitment that must become a discipline that must become a routine and a ritual. You know when you feel good, and others sense that.
Being a great leader means being a great person. People don’t swear their loyalty to a strategy or business plan; they devote their best to people they admire, who have qualities that resonate with them, whose motives are unassailable, who are vulnerable and authentic. Basic goodness is a strong purchase on our hearts. A friend of mine is hardly adept at marketing himself, yet people pick up a decency in him that is infectious and compelling. He is a master at his craft, but they want him to succeed because it is a testament to how good should win out, and they want to be part of that. I believe most of us want to be good people, but it is the continual sifting and smelting of self-examination that keeps it pure.
You simply cannot truly know your capabilities unless you persistently pursue excellence in your life and work. I have built most of the furniture in our house over the years, yet with each one I can still spot the place where I hurried a cut or compromised on a design or joint. It is so tempting to trade excellence for expediency, and it can seep into other areas of our lives. Excellence is a habit. Taking the time to do things really well is not just measured by the output; it tests us as people, forces us out of our comfort zone and into rougher terrain where learning and growth reside.
Legacy, footprints, impact. We all have our own words for it, but I believe we all have the capacity to do much more than serve our own needs. Primum non nocere (first, do no harm) is not enough. There is plenty of research (ever read Give and Take?) that makes a compelling case for why businesses that move beyond their own interests and invest in the lives of their communities and causes are more successful. Yet, even if the payoff is not within your line of sight, this notion of simply doing good for others with your talent, resources and energy is the kind intentional living that lifts everyone up. Crossroads Church’s breakthrough business accelerator OCEAN is founded on this – that success has as much to do with community and character as capital.
I have talked with several people in the august of their careers and lives who – while they may have expressed it in their own way – come back to these statements. You can feel that they need to know that they worked hard, were good people, tried their best, and did good for others.
When we start asking those questions early enough in our lives and careers, we’re more likely to like the answers later.