Performance ExcellenceInsights and inspiration as I attend Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leadership Summit this week in Utah and the world watches the London Olympics:

“The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he ‘gets for it,’ but what he ‘becomes by it'”

– John Ruskin, 19th century English social thinker, philanthropist, artist, and writer

We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one.  Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars. Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy — these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.  They are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar.

Good to Great, Jim Collins, Harper Business, New York, 2001, pages 12-14.

“More men have become great through practice than by nature.”

– Democritus, Ancient Greek philosopher often called “the father of modern science”

“We sense a dangerous disease infecting our modern culture and eroding hope: an increasingly prevalent view that greatness owes more to circumstance, even luck, than to action and discipline — that what happens to us matters more than what we do. In games of chance, like a lottery or roulette, this view seems plausible. But taken as an entire philosophy, applied more broadly to human endeavor, it’s a deeply debilitating life perspective, one that we can’t imagine wanting to teach young people.”

– Jim Collins and Morten Hansen, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

– Aristotle, Greek philosopher, student of Plato, and teacher of Alexander the Great

“The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.”

– Unknown

“Leaders who are motivated to improve their emotional intelligence can do so if they’re given the right information, guidance, and support. The information they need is a candid assessment of their strengths and limitations from people who know them well and whose opinions they trust. The guidance they need is a specific developmental plan that uses naturally occurring workplace encounters as the laboratory for learning. The support they need is someone to talk to as they practice how to handle different situations, what to do when they’ve blown it, and how to learn from those setbacks. If leaders cultivate these resources and practice continually, they can develop specific emotional intelligence skills — skills that will last for years.”

– Daniel Golemen, author, psychologist, science journalist, and co-chair of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations based at Rutgers University

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

– Vince Lombardi, as head coach of the Green Bay Packers he led the team to three straight league championships and five in seven years, including winning the first two Super Bowls following the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons.


   This week we’re learning much more about Zenger Folkman’s ground breaking new book, How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths. You can now download and read Chapter 1: Organizations Flourish with Strong Leaders .This special introductory chapter is embedded with brief video clips of Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman explaining key concepts. Click here to access it.