Emphasis added. By this definition, no leadership to be found in Washington, D.C.
Forbes, 19 December 2011
One of the most often overlooked aspects of leadership is the need for pursuit. Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom, or common performance. In fact, the best leaders are simply uncomfortable with anything that embraces the status quo. Leadership is pursuit– pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of what if, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than themselves. In the text that follows I’ll examine the value of being a pursuer…
Here’s the thing – pursuit leads to attainment. What you pursue will determine the paths you travel, the people you associate with, the character you develop, and ultimately, what you do or don’t achieve. Having a mindset focused on pursuit is so critical to leadership that lacking this one quality can sentence you to mediocrity or even obsolescence. The manner, method, and motivation behind any pursuit is what sets truly great leaders apart from the masses. If you want to become a great leader, become a great pursuer.
A failure to embrace pursuit is to cede opportunity to others. A leader’s failure to pursue clarity leaves them amidst the fog. Their failure to pursue creativity relegates them to the routine and mundane. Their failure to pursue talent sentences them to a world of isolation. Their failure to pursue change approves apathy. Their failure to pursue wisdom and discernment subjects them to distraction and folly. Their failure to pursue character leaves a question mark on their integrity. Let me put this as simply as I can – you cannot attain what you do not pursue.
Smart leaders understand it’s not just enough to pursue, but pursuit must be intentional, focused, consistent, aggressive, and unyielding. You must pursue the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. Perhaps most of all, the best forms of pursuit enlist others in the chase. Pursuit in its purest form is highly collaborative, very inclusive and easily transferable. Pursuit operates at greatest strength when it leverages velocity and scale.
I also want to caution you against trivial pursuits – don’t confuse pursuit with simple goal setting. Outcomes are clearly important, but as a leader, it’s what happens after the outcome that you need to be in pursuit of. Pursue discovery, seek dissenting opinions, develop your ability unlearn by embracing how much you don’t know, and find the kind of vision that truly does see around corners. Don’t use your pursuits to shift paradigms, pursue breaking them. Knowing what not to pursue is just as important as knowing what to pursue.
It’s important to keep in mind that nothing tells the world more about a leader than what or who they pursue – that which you pursue is that which you value. If you message to your organization you value talent, but don’t treat people well and don’t spend time developing the talent around you, then I would suggest you value rhetoric more than talent. Put simply, you can wax eloquent all you like, but your actions will ultimately reveal what you truly value.
Lastly, the best leaders pursue being better leaders. They know to fail in this pursuit is nothing short of a guarantee they’ll be replaced by those who don’t. All leaders would be well served to go back to school on what I refer to as the science of pursuitology.
What’s been the best thing you’ve pursued? What pursuit has led you astray. Thoughts?