Qualities of a Superlative Leader – Personal Competencies #2 – Drive and Purpose part 2

Clear-Sense-Of-PurposeBorn Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in 1905 to a Jewish family in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ayn Rand, as she came to be known in the US, became one of the 20th centuries most controversial and influential authors and philosophers.

After the Russian Revolution, her family’s business was confiscated by the government as the country became a worker’s paradise. She watched individualism and personal ambition be subjugated to statism and collectivism.

Immigrating to the United States in 1925. Arriving in New York on February 25th of that year, she cried what she called “tears of splendor” at the site of the Manhattan skyline. Migrating gradually west, she ended up in Los Angeles becoming a friend of Cecile B. DeMille.

Becoming a US citizen in 1931, Ayn Rand enjoyed her first literary success in 1932 selling a screenplay called The Red Pawn to Universal Studios. She is best remembered these days for her novels “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.”

She founded what has come to be known as objectivism rejecting faith and mysticism. She also became a strong and fierce advocate of individual responsibility and liberty.  In Atlas Shrugged she wrote that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live,” and “the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch.” Throughout her life, Ayn Rand was driven by a purpose to leave her mark on the world and she succeeded.

In the previous post I wrote about what goes wrong when you don’t have drive and purpose. In this post I want to address the other side of the coin.  Here are 8 reasons why superlative leaders possess drive and purpose:

  1. When you have drive and purpose, work is not work. It isn’t play either. But it is that wonderful match of values, ambitions, motives, ambitions, skills, talents, and opportunity.
  2. Drive is energy and ambition, purpose is reason and motive. Drive pushes you forward. Purpose draws you forward. Drive is the get up and go. It starts where you start. Purpose is the “got there” side of the trip, it makes you want to endure the challenges of the journey.
  3. Purpose is the sum of all your values and ambitions. What you do, how you do it, and what is realized as a result of those efforts reveals why.
  4. Being busy is good but in the end unfulfilling and unrewarding unless you are busy for the right reasons and towards the right ends. And only you can determine what those reasons are and what the ends should be… and it is never all about you. Superlative leaders become remembered for more than what they did. They are remembered for what they did, how they did it, and how it left a positive impact. Their life counted for something.
  5. The minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years you spend working add up to the sum total of your life’s contribution to human history. Therefore what you live for is the same as what you die for. You give your life for something. Everyone does. The question to be answered is what and why. For some the week is spent so one may enjoy the weekend. Many have nothing more invested in their career than the time between paychecks. Superlative leaders have far more at risk and they know it. Some see their life in two week segments. But you don’t. You see it is its totality.
  6. Purpose and drive put obstacles and setbacks in perspective. No one escapes reversals or challenges. No one. Drive and purpose is the horsepower and the torque to get through them.
  7. Purpose and drive simplifies life. It enables you to make priorities quite readily and set schedules with confidence and without apology. Once values are clarified and ambitions are focused, once talents and skills are understood and motives are identified, the resulting purpose and drive makes life’s choices quite simple. With confidence and ease one makes the decisions that eliminate conflicting opportunities. (Shameless self-promotion here – if you haven’t done so already, my Mastering Your Time mini-course shows you how to do exactly that. Sign up for it here. It’s completely free of charge.)
  8. Superlative leaders understand that as long as they’re breathing, their purpose in life is not complete. Retirement is not a cessation of activity. It is not an end to really important and useful tasks. Superlative leaders keep at it longer, engage life more fully, and accomplish more because they long ago settled that their purpose in life is not to disengage and play golf 5 days a week. It is so much more than that…and it is why so many people of drive and purpose lives life so full for so long.

So I end with a favorite quote from motivational speaker and author Steven Maraboli – “I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, “aw sh*t, he’s up!”

There are worlds to conquer and some of them have your name on them. Go make them your own.

16 Qualities of a Superlative Leader – Personal Competencies #2 – Drive and Purpose, Part 1

no driveThe son of a British nobleman and an American heiress, Winston Churchill’s role in World War Two has become synonymous with excellence in leadership.

Churchill saw action in Cuba, Egypt, Sudan, and the battles of WWI. His career as a statesman began at the age of 25 when he was elected to the House of Commons. He went on to serve as First Lord of the Admiralty, the Minister of Munitions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and even a period of political exile before becoming Prime Minister. Not without his failures (who is?) he took over as Prime Minister at perhaps the most crucial time in Britain’s history and went on to lead the country through the war.

Considered by many historians to be the greatest statesman of the 20th century, we must understand why. He possessed a powerful ability to inspire people even in the direst of situations.  Publicly he voiced and demonstrated optimism, enthusiasm, and confidence even if privately potential-winston-churchill-picture-quote[1]he felt differently. Just after he became Prime Minister, one of his private secretaries spoke of his drive saying:

“The effects of Churchill’s zeal was [sic] felt immediately in Whitehall.  Government departments which under Neville Chamberlain had continued to work at much the same speed as in peacetime awoke to the realities of war.  A sense of urgency was created in the course of very few days and respectable civil servants were actually to be seen running along the corridors.  No delays were condoned; telephone switchboards quadrupled their efficiency; the Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Planning Staff were in almost constant session; regular office hours ceased to exist and weekends disappeared with them.” (Geoffrey Best in his book – Churchill and War)

Superlative leaders do not become great accidentally nor do they stumble into greatness. They grow into it, coming to the right place at the right time possessing the right gifts seasoned by the hard challenges that waylay lesser men and women.

Through the ups and downs they possess drive and purpose which does not lose its vibrancy once they attain positions of great potential. They are fired from within by passion that is issue driven not interest driven. Issue driven leaders are motivated by a cause, inspired by a possibility, maintained by a faith in effort that they believe will surely pay off. They know without wavering that there are things worth making sacrifices for and that the hand of the diligent will indeed rule.

Interest driven passion fades as soon as the fun wanes and the work waxes. Like dogs chasing butterflies in a field, they flit from this passion to another, never staying the course long, never accomplishing more than burning fuel and time.

Passion and vision, therefore are joined at the hip. The former without the latter consumes time and burns brightly but leaves little lasting result. Vision with passion just sits there, mocking our words and taunting our well-written plans.

Indeed, there are 4 ways to destroy your life as a leader:

  1. Procrastination – Denis Waitley calls it living on “Someday I’ll.” There is that paradise of the mind located in a sea of fantasy on which all our dreams reside and to which we will attend…soon, no really, we’re going to get to them right away. Procrastinators tend to judge themselves by their intentions and discount their actions. It’s the intent that matters to them.
  2. Do something else – following someone else’s dream has some benefit, but lacks the sense of fulfillment that comes from following a personal passion. Churchill could have settled for a life of exile, making the occasional sage observation from the sidelines, but he engaged his opposition, overcame the obstacles, and to use a phrase he himself use to inspire others , the told himself to KBO – Keep Buggering On.
  3. Do nothing – Otherwise known as laziness, do nothing leaders find a thousand and one excuses why they should not take action. I call it the McClellan Syndrome named after General George McClellan, the commander of Union forces early in our civil war. He was a great organizer, a consummate bureaucrat, and chronically cowardly which manifest itself as laziness. He could plan but he would not fight. Do nothing leaders would substitute the preparations for action for action itself. They validate their lack of action by focusing on their diligence to prepare and their noble intentions (See #1).
  4. Dabbling – I call them piddlers. They piddle with this, monkey around with that, burn through time, money, people, energy, and resources but produce almost nothing. Lacking purpose, they pursue this or that, often with passion, but with neither focus nor fruit.

When I say a superlative leader possesses drive it is implied that s/he is driving somewhere not just here or there. Drive and purpose are two sides of the same argument. Each implies the other.

In 1938, Philadelphia Attorney Robert Abraham saw the approaching war, and paying close attention to the advance of the Imperial Japanese Army in China, he wrote a poem describing a Philadelphia couple as they drove through the countryside to a friend home to play cards. Remembering some of the battles that had been fought there in the nation’s history, Abraham drew comparisons between what had happened and what was happening in too many parts of the world. His poem was published by the Saturday Evening Post and ended like this:

“Tonight Shanghai is burning,

And we are dying too.

What bomb more surely mortal

Than death inside of you?


For some men die by shrapnel,

And some go down in flames,

But most men perish inch by inch,

In play at little games.”

I have briefly described the effects of the lack of drive and purpose, what about the benefits? Well, I’m out of space for today. In Monday’s post I will list them out. See you then.

FYI – you can read the full text of Abraham’s poem here.