By Frank J. Rich
The opportunity in most things is the willingness to gain something from it. An easy math to conceive, the hope in opportunity is not made of the unknown; it is instead formed of something deep within us. As the story goes, the mythical seers and creators of the universe gathered to ponder where to hide the secrets to happiness and success from those who would not use them. They first considered the seas, thinking their depths would secure the secrets from most. But the resourceful, they concluded, would find a way to plumb its depths and find treasure to squander by their cunning. The heavens were the next choice. But this place too they believed man would explore by his ingenuity to squander on the unworthy. Finally, they concluded that they would hide the secrets to happiness and success deep within each person, thinking most would not find it there. Sadly, they were right.
The human condition is coded for success; resourcefulness and the will to do better are its rudder and screws. The nautical metaphor pictures a ship whose direction and force are given life by such underpinnings. Even the mighty rudder looks to the tiny “pilot” for its cue, working together to make their way against wind and sea.
In his book, The Character of Leadership, author Phil Eastman II defines a model of leadership owing everything to character. Returning to an ancient masonry, Eastman expresses the model above for “its origins among the ancient philosophers. Greek thinkers established the idea that a person possessed four cardinal virtues: courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom. With the founding of the Christian movement, early church leaders added faith hope and love to the list.”
The model speaks clearly to a society suffering a crisis of character. The Presidency, no less, reputed to be “all about character,” deigned to threaten those who elected him with increased taxes and service cuts if they do not force congressional leaders to …well, do the same thing.
I would add “resourcefulness” to the model. In our efforts to grow enterprise, we join too often with a coalition of the unwilling; those who are afraid of work for reasons that reason knows little of. While all agree that growth is the goal for most organizations – even NGOs hope for growth in services – most carp at the idea that their income be tied to it.
So arched is their resistance that the contradiction between one’s resume, usually positioning them at the center of growth, and their actual behavior is the unwillingness of entitlement. All position the future as requiring greater income to support, but few will find the courage to step into the breach to produce the growth necessary to fund their future need.
To plan opportunity in the growth of customer accounts requires that we learn his revenue and use models, the way customers find and use his products and services; construct a “benefits” model of achievement, and a clear path to it for the customer.
Few customers would turn from the growth that obtains from a secure ROI. Yet, most workers look to the employer for “presold” accounts and to customers who call excitedly with their own plan for growth that awaits your products. Sales people who sit idly waiting for others to supply leads that direct them into the marketplace, or wait on template documents to explain the use of products and direct customers to greater participation in them after the sale, or who focus on the commission instead of opportunity in all product and service deliveries – the help that aids market growth – have not only lost sight of the goal of their offerings but have failed to look beyond the scrim where character in their pursuits reveals real opportunity.
Leadership is simply defined as the achievement of a planned goal. To wait on others, and not join with them – our unique contribution in tow – is to fail the test of “character leadership” and the modeling behaviors that inform it. Character is the antidote for today’s “what’s in it for me” culture – at all levels of achievement.