“He’s a good leader,” they said. It wasn’t clear what they meant by “good,” but one could surmise that he supported his employees, helped increase the business, recognized the hard work of his executive team and maintained a decent family life.
Is that how it works? Upstanding guys who make it to executive meetings on time and allow their team full control of projects are good leaders? Do good leaders keep their eye on the bottom line—focused on profit? Do good leaders make it home to dinner, take their kids to dance/karate/music lessons, and take their wives to fancy restaurants now and then?
Being recognized as good isn’t what you want to hear, when you’re in a leadership role. Good, as author Jim Collins will tell you, is the enemy of great. But, in the customer-centric world of business today, being great isn’t enough, either.
“Good enough isn’t good enough because...no one remembers people who just get by” or companies that just get by. You can’t be good or good enough or even great—you must be remarkable.
Dr. Lee Thayer, author of Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing, and a business mentor of mine, is fond of reminding me that “Most people grew up with too much security. That makes them incompetent to deal with challenges.” Challenges aren’t things like deciding what software to use for bookkeeping or CRM. Challenges aren’t figuring out CRM or Facebook. Challenges come in the form of intrigue, mystery, and hardship. They require fast-thinking, a creative mindset, and confidence. Security is not part of meeting challenges head-on.
Good leaders avoid challenges. Good leaders send a memo to their VP or some other underling, pushing the responsibility off on them. “This will be a good experience for you,” the memo might say. A leader that offers team members and employees ‘good experiences’ solving company challenges is definitely doing them a service. When your followers grapple with the challenges you should be solving, remarkable things happen, for them, not for you.
The Girl Scouts know that challenges are imperative to leadership. “There may be a time when one is called upon to take on challenges greater than one can ever imagine,” they say on the Five Qualities of a Good Leader. Unfortunately, while their advice is sound, they don’t seem to recognize that good isn’t good enough and only remarkable will do.
A favorite quote of mine is, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Remarkable leaders, exceptional leaders, phenomenal leaders walk that tightrope every day. They aren’t staring at where to place their feet, or wondering how far they’ll fall if they miss a step. They’re looking straight ahead into tomorrow. They don’t hold press conferences to boast about their successes—sorry, Charlie Sheen—and they don’t make it home to dinner every night.
Remarkable leaders are focused on the unexpected. They anticipate the future fully aware that past performance is no guarantee of future success. They spring into action—doing whatever it takes until the result needed is achieved. Remarkable leaders marry women (or men) who understand that being remarkable requires a higher standard of attention—which may leave family members in the lurch now and then.
Can you be a remarkable leader and a good leader? Why not? A truly remarkable leader doesn’t re-invent the wheel when it comes to leadership skill and resolve. A truly remarkable leader understands, as my other business mentor, Bruce Peters says, “It’s not the recipe, it’s the cook.” A remarkable leader may utilize educational training, but those are but blueprints to be referenced and transformed in the pursuit of excellence.
The remarkable leader is an idea architect—redefining business processes on the fly. Their solutions are painted in a myriad of colors. Yes, it’s good to recognize and reward your team. It’s good to be a family man, or woman. It’s good to be human. But, it’s not remarkable.
Remarkable is having business pundits comment on how good you are—while you’re busy cooking up a recipe for success that your peers are afraid to try. Remarkable is more than human.